JJB's Ronnie charged over '£1m fraud'

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The Independent Online

Chris Ronnie, the former chief executive of JJB Sports, was yesterday charged by the Serious Fraud Office over an alleged £1m fraud relating to contracts entered into by the sportswear retailer in 2008.

The SFO has also charged David Ball, an accountant and joint owner of Fashion & Sport, a supplier to JJB, with three offences of "furnishing false information" contrary to the Theft Act 1968.

Both men appeared before Westminster Magistrates' Court yesterday and were bailed.

Mr Ronnie's lawyers said he had fully "co-operated with the SFO investigation and is surprised and disappointed at the decision. He strenuously denies the charges, has always maintained his innocence and is confident his position will be vindicated in due course".

The SFO alleges that Mr Ronnie, who was the chief executive of JJB between August 2007 and March 2009, committed three Fraud Act offences in relation to "failure to disclose interests in contracts" entered into by JJB; two money-laundering offences; and two offences of furnishing false information contrary to the Theft Act.

After a referral from the Office of Fair Trading, the SFO said in September 2009 it was investigating the activities of JJB and its rival Sports Direct in respect of potential Fraud Act and Enterprise Act offences. But the fraud watchdog cleared both of any wrongdoing.

In June 2007, Mr Ronnie bought a 29.9 per cent stake in JJB from its founder Dave Whelan for £193m via his investment vehicle Exista.