Jurors in the trial of Andrew Regan, the wealthy City deal-maker accused of stealing more than £2m to bribe senior managers at the Co-op, were told yesterday they would be given police protection.
Judge David Radford told the jury they would be put under police surveillance outside of court hours to prevent "improper pressure of any kind" throughout the trial of entrepreneur Andrew Regan.
The jurors, eight women and four men, were told the trial could last up to six weeks. The measure would intrude on their lives and privacy, the judge said.
After the jury was sworn in at Snaresbrook Crown Court, east London, Judge Radford said they may have read about a senior Metropolitan Police officer warning of the dangers of jury nobbling by "violent and sophisticated criminals".
"Let me make clear to you that there is no suggestion being made in this case that the defendant, Mr Regan, is the kind of violent and sophisticated career criminal about whom the Deputy Commissioner expressed concern," the judge said. He apologised for the measures but said the jurors should "not in any way be alarmed by it". "It is a precaution that is taken from time to time and by no means does it follow that anything untoward will happen to any of you," the judge said.
"The fact that such protection has been arranged is no reflection whatsoever on the defendant and the jury protection order is made quite simply to ensure that the defendant has a fair trial.
"It is made to protect you and to ensure that you are not subject to any improper pressure of any kind from whatever source indeed from anyone other than the prosecution or the defence who might have an interest in the outcome of these proceedings."
Andrew Regan, 37, is accused of stealing £2.4m from his own company in January 1995 to pay off two Co-op executives and protect a lucrative supply contract. Mr Regan, a self-made businessman who set up his first company at the age of 20, denies the theft charge.
A web of off-shore accounts, overseas companies and business contacts were allegedly used to channel money from a subsidiary to pay £1m to each of the two men, Allan Green, 59, and David Chambers, 57. The two men, both in high-ranking positions at the Cooperative Wholesale Society (CWS), were convicted last year of taking bribes, the jury was told.
Douglas Day QC, prosecuting on behalf of the Serious Fraud Office, said the Crown's case was that Mr Regan was "as guilty of corruption" as Green and Chambers.
The jury was told that that the success of the parent company, Hobson, where he was chief executive and owned more than 9 million shares, depended largely on a three-year exclusive contract to supply food to the CWS. But amid concerns in the City about the company's prospects, Mr Regan sought to extend the £220m-a-year contract which led to the pay-offs to the two senior executives negotiating with the CWS, Mr Day said.
The court was told that the £2.4m was transferred to a company run by a business associate of Mr Regan, Ronald Zimet, then based in Holland.
The sum was disguised as a brokerage fee for Mr Zimet but he had played no part in the negotiations to extend the food supply contract, said Mr Day. The £1m sums were then sent to accounts set up especially in Jersey for the former CWS men, the jury was told.
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