Cambridgeshire man jailed for his part in Sainsbury’s £8.7m potato scam

Friday, June 22, 2012
2:11 PM

Former Greenvale finance director sent to prison for three years

A Cambridgeshire man was one of three men jailed for a scam that saw Sainsbury’s overcharged by nearly £9 million.

Andrew Behagg, a former finance director at potato supplier Greenvale, and former Greenvale director David Baxter showered Sainsbury’s potato buyer John Maylam with gifts and hospitality in return for lucrative contracts with the supermarket.

Behagg, 60, from Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, who was found guilty at an earlier trial of corruption by authorising payments to Maylam. He was jailed for three years.

Behagg, a grandfather now past retirement age, worked “all his life for Greenvale – almost literally man and boy”, his counsel William Clegg QC said.

Baxter, 50, of Hinstock, near Market Drayton in Shropshire, who also admitted corruption and acquiring criminal property, was jailed for 30 months.

Maylam, 45, of Bearsted, Maidstone, who admitted corruption and acquiring criminal property, was jailed for four years 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”.

Behagg, whose wife is seriously ill, did not instigate the scam and did not benefit directly but was “aware of what was happening at a very early stage” and should have reported it, the packed courtroom was told.

The judge told Behagg, who was also a shareholder at Greenvale: “You admitted in your own words that you were supposed to be the financial gatekeeper. You deliberately walked away from your post.”

Speaking to Maylam, Judge Ainley said he effectively took money from his own employer.

He added: “You abused their trust so that you could lead the life of a very rich man.

“What started off as generous requirements for expenses rapidly became an utter abuse.”

Turning to Baxter, who was provided with a credit card to draw money from “the fund”, the judge said he “took the opportunity to lead the life of a rich man at somebody else’s expense”.

He said he believed Baxter personally benefited by about £100,000 and added: “You knew perfectly well you were stealing money from Sainsbury’s to live as extravagantly as you did over that period.”

The scam took place between 2006 and 2008, coming to light after Greenvale’s parent company Produce Investments ordered an investigation. A confiscation hearing will be held early next year.

The four-year police investigation revealed that £4.9 million was paid to Maylam out of a fund created by the overcharging of Sainsbury’s.

The total amount the supermarket says it was overcharged by was £8.7 million.

Judge Ainley said as he sentenced the men: “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.”

Det Supt Tony Crampton, of City of London Police, said: “This is a story of three men who have engaged in corruption.

“They have abused their position and betrayed the trust of their employers.

“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.

“I think the men thought their fraud was so complex they would not be detected.”

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.

“We demand the highest standards of all our colleagues and suppliers and Sainsbury’s code of conduct clearly details how we expect them to behave, and is reinforced by our confidential whistleblowing line.”

In a statement, the owner of Greenvale AP, Produce Investments, said: “Produce Investments has no tolerance of bribery, corruption of 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.

“We would like to point out that we instigated the investigation in early 2008 and Andrew Behagg and David Baxter ceased to be Greenvale employees shortly thereafter. The investigation ultimately led to the charges faced by these three men.

“Since 2008 we have introduced strict new procedures to make sure that such abuse is now impossible.”

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