Ahold trio avoid jail after fraud convictions

The curtain fell on the accounting scandal at the supermarket group Ahold yesterday after three executives responsible for almost bankrupting the Dutch chain were given suspended jail sentences.

A Dutch court found the three former executives guilty and fined them a total of €670,000 (£460,000) - but immediately drew criticism for the leniency of their punishments.

Cees van der Hoeven, Ahold's former chief executive, and Michiel Meurs, its former chief financial officer, were each given nine-month jail terms, suspended for two years, and fined €225,000 for fraud. Jan Andreae, who used to run Ahold's European operations, received a four-month suspended jail term and a €120,000 fine, while a fourth defendant, Roland Fahlin, was acquitted. Had they faced trial in the US, they could have spent 30 years in jail. Prosecutors had called for prison terms of up to 14 months.

Revelation of the scandal, which centred on executives concealing documents from the group's auditors concerning four of its joint ventures, wiped €6bn off the value of Ahold in 2003. The chain is limping back to health under a new management team.