Regan denies trying to cover up '£2.4m bribe' to Co-op executives

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The Independent Online

A businessman tried to "cover up" a bribe he allegedly paid to secure a lucrative food supply contract, a court heard yesterday.

Snaresbrook Crown Court was told that Andrew Regan helped draft an official document to explain why £2.4m was mysteriously transferred to a company called Trellis International in January 1995, during a meeting two months later.

Mr Regan, 35, denies stealing the money from FE Barber, a subsidiary of Hobson, of which he was chief executive, to bribe senior executives of the Co-operative Wholesale Society.

Allan Green, 57, general head of marketing and buying at the Co-op, and David Chambers, 56, general chief buyer, both deny corruptly accepting £1m each from Trellis International.

Mr Green and Mr Chambers were responsible for negotiating an extension to the food supply contract between FE Barber and the Co-op.

Douglas Day QC, prosecuting, described events following the deal as "what could be characterised as a cover-up".

He said that executive directors from Hobson met in March 1995 to draft a background document detailing how the deal was achieved.

Mr Day said Hobson's finance director, Peter Hallett, "had allowed himself to be persuaded to insert a fact into the document that he knew was untrue".

This fact concerned a telephone conversation which the document said took place between Mr Hallett and Ronald Zimet, a Dutch businessman.

The £2.4m payment had been explained by Hobson as the brokerage fee commanded by Mr Zimet, of Trellis International, for his part in securing the deal.

Mr Day also said that other Hobson board members, including the non-executive chairman David Wigglesworth, were not immediately told of Mr Zimet's involvement in the deal.

He said Mr Wigglesworth, who was on holiday when the deal was finalised, was "amazed when he found out that the deal had been done in the way that it was".

"He was annoyed that a deal with a £2.4m brokerage fee had been done in his absence," Mr Day said. "He made it clear that a deal with a brokerage fee of that size was outside his financial experience."

A fourth man, solicitor Paul Thomas, 42, denies aiding and abetting Mr Green and Mr Chambers in committing their alleged offences.

The case continues.

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