Hartstone suspends executive

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The Independent Online
THE corporate treasurer of Hartstone Group, the troubled tights and handbag maker, has been suspended after pounds 50,000 from a foreign exchange contract was diverted into a personal bank account. The executive, Mike Small, has gone on long-term sick leave.

Hartstone refused officially to identify who had been suspended. But David Wormsley of Schroders, the company's financial advisers, said the board was considering calling in the police over the transaction.

The problem came to light on Thursday. The senior executive admitted that he arranged for money from a foreign exchange hedging transaction to be diverted to his account, and that pounds 50,000 of this might not be recoverable.

On Friday, Hartstone's directors met for a board meeting to consider the events of the past two weeks, during which the group issued two profit warnings, demoted Stephen Barker, its chairman and chief executive, and started the search for a new chief executive and finance director.

Mr Small was not at Hartstone's office in Thane, Oxfordshire on Friday, and not available for comment. His secretary said he was unwell and would be off work for a long time. She could not say when he might return.