In October, four people will be in court after being charged by the UK Serious Fraud Office in relation to the collapse of UK café chain Patisserie Valerie.
SFO opened an investigation into the bakery chain in 2018. Christopher Marsh, the former chief financial officer, and his wife Louise Marsh, the accountant, were both charged. The SFO has also filed charges against former Financial Controller Pritesh Mistry, and financial consultant Nileshkumar Lad.
Patisserie Valérie closed 70 stores and lost more than 900 employees when its debts became public in 2018. In January 2019, it went into administration, about three months after announcing that the board of directors had been informed of possible fraudulent accounting irregularities.
The SFO has charged all four individuals for conspiring to inflate cash in Patisserie Holdings balance sheets and annual reports from 2015 to 2018.
Lad, Mistry, and Christopher Marsh have also been charged with five counts each of fraud by false presentation in violation of sections 1 and 2 the Fraud Act, as well as a single count of making or supplying articles to be used for frauds against section 7 of Fraud Act.
Christopher Marsh is also accused of false statements made as a director of a company, in violation of section 19 of Theft Law.
Mary Monson Solicitors who represents Christopher Marsh declined to comment.
Lisa Osofsky is the outgoing director of SFO. She will be replacing her later this month with Nick Ephgrave, who was the assistant commissioner in charge of frontline policing between 2019 and 2022. She will step down at the end of this month and be by Nick Ephgrave who was assistant commissioner for frontline police of the Metropolitan Police between 2019-2022.
Osofsky’s tenure was marred with a number controversies. Notably, failures in the SFO’s disclosure processes led to the abandonment several criminal trials.
The SFO dropped a criminal case against three former executives of G4S Security, who were accused of defrauding government officials over a prisoner tagging contract. This was due to disclosure issues almost a decade after this case started.
The SFO was also responsible for the failure of a second trial in 2021 involving prisoner tag against two former Serco executives, after the agency had failed to provide key documents to defence teams.
In recent years, the collapse of Patisserie Valerie and other cases like Carillion have led to a greater scrutiny on the role of auditors.
In June, the administrators of Patisserie Valérie settled with Grant Thornton a lawsuit for PS200mn that alleged negligence by the accountants in their audits of this cafe chain. FRP Advisory is liquidating this failed group and has sued Grant Thornton 2020. This was one of the largest High Court claims brought against a mid level accounting firm.