Sainsbury's potato bribe scam: Three jailed
Three men have been jailed over a scam that saw Sainsbury's supermarket overcharged by nearly £9m.
Two directors at a potato supplier showered the supermarket's potato buyer John Maylam with gifts and hospitality in return for lucrative contracts.
Maylam, 45, from Kent, was jailed for four years at Croydon Crown Court.
David Baxter, 50, from Shropshire, was jailed for 30 months and Andrew Behagg, 60, from Cambridgeshire, received a three-year sentence.
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".
A four-year police investigation revealed that £4.9m was paid to Maylam using cash from the scam.
The total amount the supermarket says it was overcharged was £8.7m.'Outrageous extravagance'
Maylam, of Bearsted, Maidstone, admitted corruption and acquiring criminal property.
Behagg, from Chatteris, was convicted of corruption by authorising payments to Maylam.
He was working as a finance director at potato supplier Greenvale at the time.
Former Greenvale director Baxter, of Hinstock, near Market Drayton, also pleaded guilty to corruption and acquiring criminal property.
End Quote Sainsbury's spokesman
This was an unacceptable and calculated crime against Sainsbury's”
Sentencing the men, Judge Ainley told them: "There will be many who find the details of frankly outrageous extravagance this case offers fascinating.
"But 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.
"Corruption because Greenvale wanted to keep the Sainsbury's contract - a contract for 45% of Sainsbury's potato contract worth about £40 million - and they offered Maylam, the Sainsbury's buyer, all the lavish entertainment he wanted, over £1 million of it."
Nicholas Walker, representing Maylam, said his client admitted the entertainment lavished on him was "excessive almost to the point of vulgarity".
Baxter drank to such an extent that he was taken ill and diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, his counsel Robert Benzynie said, which acted as "a wake-up call".
Behagg 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 court heard.
A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "This was an unacceptable and calculated crime against Sainsbury's and we are pleased that justice has been done."
In a statement, the owners of Greenvale AP, Produce Investments Ltd, said: "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."