J Sainsbury’s chief executive has been sentenced to two years in an Egyptian jail.
Mike Coupe was convicted by a court in Giza for what it claimed was embezzlement after he allegedly tried to seize cheques linked to an Egyptian business Sainsbury’s invested in 16 years ago.
As the retailer’s chief executive and its most senior employee, the court held Mr Coupe responsible. News of the sentencing was first reported in The Times.
Mr Coupe travelled to Egypt on Sunday to appeal the conviction, but the case was postponed until next month.
In a statement to the stock exchange, Sainsbury’s claimed Mr Coupe has been “convicted, without notice of the proceedings against him and in his absence, in an Egyptian Court” and denied all the allegations against him.
“We strongly refute the legal case in Egypt brought against our chief executive Mike Coupe. This relates to a historic commercial dispute in which Mr Coupe had no involvement,” a Sainsbury’s spokesman said.
“Mike was not even employed by Sainsbury’s at the time of the original business deal in 2001 which gave rise to these legal proceedings. We are contesting these groundless allegations.”
The case stems from Sainsbury’s disastrous foray into Egypt in 1999.
Sainsbury’s paid £10m in March that year for a 25pc stake in the joint venture with local partner Amr El Nasharty, and £40m six months later to raise it to 80pc.
When Sainsbury’s withdrew from Egypt in 2001, the business had about 100 stores and was losing £35m on sales of £80m.
According to Sainsbury’s, Mr El Nasharty bought the joint-venture from the UK retailer in 2001 but “he paid us with cheques that bounced”.
“Mr El Nasharty is now claiming that Mike Coupe was in Egypt in July 2014 and tried to seize these cheques,” the Sainsbury’s spokesman added.
“This is clearly ridiculous. Mike Coupe was in London carrying out his normal duties that day.”
Joel Hills, business editor of ITV News, said in a tweet that he was with Mike Coupe on the July morning that the Sainsbury’s chief was allegedly in Egypt.
Sainsbury’s said: “We have taken all necessary steps to appeal against these groundless claims and will continue to do so. This process is being handled by our legal team and we do not anticipate it having any material operational or financial impact on the company.”
Source: The Telegraph