By James Davey
LONDON (Reuters) - A former senior director of Tesco was formally acquitted on Wednesday of fraud and false accounting at Britain's biggest retailer in 2014.
Carl Rogberg, a former Tesco UK finance director, was tried last year along with former colleagues Christopher Bush and John Scouler. The trial was abandoned in February after Rogberg suffered a heart attack.
Bush and Scouler were acquitted in December after a retrial, the judge ruling there was no case to answer. Rogberg was removed from the re-trial indictment due to ill-health and was formally acquitted at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday.
"It is a huge relief that this day has finally come," Rogberg said in a statement.
"While I always had faith that it would, the journey here has not been an easy one," he said, noting the toll it had taken on his health, family and friends.
Echoing comments from Bush and Scouler in December, Rogberg was critical of Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which brought the case, and of Tesco.
"In short, there was never any evidence of my wrongdoing and I should never have been charged," he said.
The case stemmed from an overstatement of more than 250 million pounds of Tesco's profit forecast in 2014, mainly due to booking commercial deals with suppliers too early.
Former UK managing director Bush, former UK food commercial director Scouler and Rogberg were charged by the SFO in September 2016 with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting.
In March 2017, Tesco agreed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the SFO, paying a 129 million pound fine to settle a case against the company and avoid a criminal conviction.
Rogberg's acquittal meant reporting restrictions relating to publication of the DPA were lifted.
Rogberg's lawyer, Neil O'May of Norton Rose Fulbright, said the DPA was "plainly wrong" as it was based on the assumption of the guilt of Rogberg, Bush and Scouler.
Bush's lawyer, Ross Dixon of Hickman & Rose, said the case had exposed the fundamental unfairness of DPAs.
"We now have two contradictory outcomes: that of the criminal trial in which the allegations were dismissed for lack of evidence, and the DPA, based on the same allegations, which tells a different story."
Tesco and the SFO did not have an immediate comment.
Tesco has said it is a changed company under Chief Executive Dave Lewis, who joined shortly before the accounting scandal plunged the retailer into the worst crisis in its history.
(Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Jon Boyle and Mark Potter)