Sainsbury's buyer who got his hands dirty on 'hot' potatoes jailed for £1m scam

Bribes from desperate supplier funded lifestyle of fast cars, fine wines and luxurious hotels

He lived the millionaire's dream with an Aston Martin on the driveway and an all-expenses paid trip to the Monaco Grand Prix to mark his 40th birthday. The long list of fine-dining establishments he visited read like a gourmet's tour of London. At Claridge's Hotel he ran up a £200,000 bill.

But yesterday, John Maylam, 45, a potato buyer for Sainsbury's with a taste for the finer things in life, was starting a four-year jail term for corruption after a jury found his wealth was based on a multimillion-pound secret fund set up by a supplier desperate to retain its £40m contract with the supermarket.

David Baxter, 49, a former director of the Greenvale company – and Maylam's key contact within the company – lavished more than £1m entertaining Maylam and joined him so enthusiastically as his drinking partner that he developed cirrhosis of the liver. The two men were part of a six-strong group who jetted to the south of France and Monte Carlo for a £350,000 VIP trip to the motor racing, which involved nights at the five-star Hotel Byblos in St Tropez and other top hotels. The trip was signed off by the company as "team building".

Bundles of cash were handed over in brown envelopes and more than £1m was paid into a bank in Luxembourg to distribute to Maylam and his associates. The perks included a sleek black Aston Martin V8 Vantage, bought for £93,000 and delivered to Maylam.

"When that shiny black Aston Martin was delivered to his house ... Mr Maylam turned white," said his lawyer Nicholas Walker at Croydon Crown Court yesterday. "That Aston Martin became almost totemic of this corruption and it lay in the drive hardly driven because it was a reminder of how far he had sunk."

Baxter was jailed for 30 months and Greenvale's former finance director who signed off on the deals, Andrew Behagg, was jailed for three years. The court heard that they inflated the price of potatoes they sold to the unwitting supermarket to sustain the secret slush fund. However, Judge Nicholas Ainley said yesterday that the bribery may not have been necessary to keep the business. "You abused their trust so that you could lead the life of a very rich man," he told Maylam.

The case shone a light on the powerful role of buyers for supermarkets in negotiating deals with suppliers. The National Farmers' Union has claimed that a "climate of fear" has prevented farmers from complaining for fear of reprisals and losing their business.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law