Jail threat now for Sainsbury’s ex boss Justin King

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Justin King faces three years in an Egyptian jail
Justin King faces three years in an Egyptian jail

Related tags: Law

Sainsbury’s former boss Justin King now faces the threat of imprisonment in an Egyptian jail, after it emerged earlier this week that current chief executive Mike Coupe was sentenced to two years’ in prison for an embezzlement conviction.

The retail bosses’ growing entanglement in the Egyptian courts followed Sainsbury’s failed supermarket joint venture with local business man Amr El Nasharty. Both King and Coupe have now received jail terms, following their convictions for financial offences, according to reports in The Times​.

King received a three-year jail sentence last year after his conviction by an Egyptian court for a “breach of trust”,​ according to reports. While his sentence was overturned on appeal this year, the public prosecutor in Egypt has now appealed the acquittal – renewing the threat of jail for former Sainsbury chief executive.

But a Sainsbury spokeswoman insisted all charges against King, Coupe and the retailer were entirely groundless.

‘Spurious criminal and civil proceedings’

“Mr El Nasharty has brought a number of spurious criminal and civil proceedings against Sainsbury and its employees, including Justin King, in the past,” ​the spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

“Like Mike​ [Coupe], Justin King did not work for Sainsbury at the time of the business deal that resulted in these allegations. Each of these allegations have been unsuccessful or dismissed on appeal by the Egyptian courts.”

Sainsbury had been given no reasoning why or on what grounds the Egyptian public prosecutor had decided to challenge King’s acquittal in court this weekend, added the spokeswoman.

Egyptian jail sentences

  • Mike Coupe: two years for embezzlement
  • Justin King: three years for “breach of trust”

Coupe and other Sainsbury top executives flew to Egypt on Sunday April 26 to attend an appeal hearing concerning his in absentia conviction on embezzlement charges. Failing to attend the hearing would have been taken as “a confirmation of his conviction”​, according to the retailer. A group of the retailer's executives plans to return to Egypt on Sunday (May 3) to attend the adjourned hearing, it is understood. Whether Coupe planned to join them remained unclear.

Deemed personally responsible

Coupe’s sentence followed a ruling by a court in Giza, the country’s third largest city, that he had tried to seize cheques connected with the retailer’s failed joint venture. He was deemed personally responsible, as the retailer’s most senior employee.

Sainsbury told FoodManufacture.co.uk on Wednesday (April 27): “We strongly refute the legal case​ in Egypt brought against our chief executive Mike Coupe. This relates to an historic commercial dispute in which Mr Coupe had no involvement.”

Commenting on the cause of the legal wrangle, the spokeswoman said: “When Mr El Nasharty bought the Egyptian business back from us in 2001, 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. This is clearly ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Sainsbury reportedly invested £10M in a 25% joint venture with El Nasharty in 1999.

It later invested a further £40M in the venture which, at its peak, extended to about 100 stores.

Sainsbury's response

“Mr El Nasharty has brought a number of spurious criminal and civil proceedings against Sainsbury’s and its employees, including Justin King, in the past​. 

“Like Mike​ [Coupe], Justin King did not work for Sainsbury’s at the time of the business deal that resulted in these allegations. Each of these allegations have been unsuccessful or dismissed on appeal by the Egyptian courts.”

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