Five former directors of Durex maker SSL charged with fraud

Five former directors of SSL International, including two ex-chief executives and the former finance director, have been charged with overstating sales figures after the conclusion of a two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

Iain Cater, who was ousted as chief executive of the Durex condoms maker in 2001, and his interim replacement, Dieno George, appeared at Macclesfield magistrates' court yesterday, pleading not guilty to charges of making false statements, as did Paul Sanders, the former finance director.

The SFO said no existing employees of SSL, nor the company itself, would face prosecution over the affair. Its inquiry was sparked by an internal investigation by the company and SSL's admission in June 2001 that sales had been overstated by £22m and profits by £19m.

Mr Cater was "invited to step down" as chief executive in February 2001. SSL said in May 2001 that a review of its sales practices had prompted "a separate investigation by external advisers into the overstatement of results".

The company was already in turmoil after several profit warnings and revelations of trade loading, a legal but frowned-upon practice whereby wholesalers are given incentives to take on more stock than they can sell and which inflated SSL's sales by an estimated £63m.

Mr Cater had been at the helm since 1990, forging a conglomerate from what was then Seton Healthcare, through a number of big deals in the late Nineties. Mr George had been managing director of the European operations before briefly serving as acting chief executive. Mr Sanders joined Seton in 1997 after a career at Arthur Andersen, the now defunct auditor, and left SSL in September 2000 to join the internet security software group Baltimore Technologies. He was briefly acting chief executive at Baltimore, but left the company after a year.

Two former senior managers at SSL's British division, Christine Davenport, who was finance director, and Brian Ruane, a sales director, yesterday denied making false statement and additional charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Colin Wilson, former purchasing director of the private Coventry wholesaler AAH Pharmaceuticals, an SSL customer, also pleaded not guilty to corruption charges. The accounting mis-statements alleged by the SFO took place over the 25 months to March 2000, stretching back into the period before SSL was created by the merger of Seton Scholl and London International Group in 1999.

SSL's shares lost 40 per cent of their value in the period between the revelations of trade loading and the final restatement of its financial results.

Ian Martin, who became chairman in 2001 after the scandal had prompted a boardroom clear-out, said yesterday that SSL had been "fastidious" in providing information and assistance to the SFO, which had taken up substantial management time over the past two years.

He said: "Now that, so far as the company is concerned, this unfortunate matter is closed, we can look forward to focusing exclusively on building our business and particularly our high-value global brands, Durex and Scholl."

Brian Buchan, who joined as chief executive in March 2001, is restructuring the group, selling off the hospital supplies businesses, which represent about a third of the sales, to focus on the consumer brands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Marketing Executive - B2B - OTE £25,000

£17000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity to join this new...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £21000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Recruitment Genius: Business Control Manager

£36000 - £44000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Encouraging more businesses to ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower