Potato buyer jailed for £9m Sainsbury's potato scam - Business News - Business - The Independent

Potato buyer jailed for £9m Sainsbury's potato scam

 

A Sainsbury's potato buyer who funded a millionaire's lifestyle by
taking part in a scam that stole money from the supermarket giant was
jailed for four years today.

John Maylam, who was head buyer, led a life of "outrageous extravagance" by taking bribes from supplier Greenvale in return for lucrative contracts with the chain.

The money laundering scheme he concocted with Greenvale accounts manager David Baxter saw Sainsbury's overcharged by nearly £9 million.

The surplus was then put in a bank account for "frivolous spending" including on a luxury trip to Monaco, lengthy stays at top hotels including Claridge's, a £94,000 Aston Martin and restaurants that could feature on a "gourmand's tour of London".

Maylam incurred expenses of £20,000 a month and was handed brown envelopes stuffed with cash, with one lump sum given to him via a Luxembourg account to the tune of £1.5 million.

Payments were authorised by Greenvale's then finance director Andrew Behagg.

The three men, all of previous good character and long-standing employees of their firms, are now starting jail terms after being sentenced at Croydon Crown Court in south London.

Judge Nicholas Ainley said it was "very nearly as serious a case of corruption as I can imagine" that involved Sainsbury's "being bribed with its own money".

Maylam was able to collude with Baxter, his key contact at Greenvale, to artificially inflate the price of potatoes from the firm to a higher rate than the one previously agreed with Sainsbury's.

The normal variation in the price of potatoes, depending on the volume and quality of crops, allowed this to go unnoticed, with the surplus money put into what the defendants called "the fund".

It was this pot that paid for Maylam's bribes, with no one else from Sainsbury's knowing of its existence, the court heard.

A four-year police investigation revealed that £4.9 million was paid to Maylam out of the fund. The total amount the supermarket says it was overcharged by was £8.7 million.

Judge Ainley said as he sentenced the men: "There will be many who find the details of frankly outrageous extravagance this case offers fascinating. But what must be remembered is that this is a case of bribery and corruption. But not just that. This is a case of corruption involving theft on a huge scale.

"Corruption because Greenvale wanted to keep the Sainsbury's contract, a contract for 45% of Sainsbury's potato contract worth about £40 million, and they offered Maylam, the Sainsbury's buyer, all the lavish entertainment he wanted, over £1 million of it."

The bribery "may not have been necessary at all", the judge said.

"There may not have been a danger of losing the business."

Maylam and married father-of-two Baxter were "drinking partners", the court heard, and spent large amounts of money on fine wine and food.

Nicholas Walker, representing Maylam, said his client admitted the entertainment lavished on him was "excessive, almost to the point of vulgarity".

Maylam's drinking "contributed to his escapism and allowed him to avoid looking at the reflection in the mirror and conceding the reality of his offences", according to Mr Walker.

"Some of the restaurants that formed part of that reads like a gourmand's tour of London."

Baxter drank to such an extent that he was taken ill and diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, his counsel Robert Benzynie said, which acted as "a wake-up call". Baxter counted the entertainment "as work".

Judge Ainley said: "It was Sainsbury's corrupt employee Maylam who was allowing himself to be bribed with what he knew was his employer's money. All three of you knew it. All three of you approved it. Two of you benefited from it.

"It was a Sainsbury's reserve account held by Greenvale and you were using it, in effect, as your private account."

The scam amounted to "a till being rifled".

Detective Superintendent Tony Crampton, of City of London Police, said: "Maylam and Baxter both had good jobs with decent salaries. But they decided they wanted a place on millionaires' row, so they cooked up an elaborate fraud that saw them divert seven-figure sums from their employers' accounts.

"They were greedy for a luxury lifestyle, frittering the money away on frivolous spending which was only made possible by Behagg's complicity."

The men thought the fraud was "so complex" that it would not be discovered.

Maylam, 45, of Bearsted, Maidstone, Kent, admitted corruption and acquiring criminal property at a court hearing last year.

Baxter, 50, of Hinstock, near Market Drayton in Shropshire, was jailed for 30 months after admitting the same charges.

Behagg, a 60-year-old grandfather from Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, was found guilty of corruption by authorising payments to Maylam following a trial. He was jailed for three years.

Maylam closed his eyes as his sentence was passed, while Baxter nodded his head slightly.

Behagg did not react. As he left the dock, he mouthed the words "I love you" to his wife who watched proceedings from the public gallery, clutching a friend's hand. Behagg, whose wife is seriously ill, was described in court as a pillar of the community, with 220 letters of support written to the judge from his friends and neighbours.

All three were employed by their firms for many years: Maylam for about 20 years by Sainsbury's and Baxter for 30 years by Greenvale.

Behagg, a grandfather now past retirement age, worked "all his life for Greenvale", his counsel William Clegg QC said.

They have all now been sacked.

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "This was an unacceptable and calculated crime against Sainsbury's and we are pleased that justice has been done. Today's sentencing sends a very clear message to anyone that behaves in this way that there are consequences to their actions."

In a statement, the owner of Greenvale AP, Produce Investments, said: "Produce Investments has no tolerance of bribery, corruption or any other wrongdoing in business.

"The sentencing of Andrew Behagg and David Baxter, formerly of Greenvale, and of former Sainsbury's buyer John Maylam, should serve to draw a line under this distressing saga."

Sainsbury's and Greenvale have both applied for compensation. A confiscation hearing takes place next year.

PA

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Payroll & Accounts Assistant

£20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £280 - £320 p/d - 6 months

£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Senior BA - Insurance **URGENT**

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week