A spokesman for Sainsbury confirmed the hearing had been adjourned from Sunday May 3 until May 21, following Coupe’s jail sentence conviction in a Giza court for attempted embezzlement. Coupe attended an initial hearing on Sunday April 26 in a bid to overturn his in absentia conviction, it is understood.
Commenting today on the conviction and appeal hearing, Coupe said he had complete faith in Sainsbury’s legal team. “I have a great legal team and I’m letting them work through it and I will get on with the day job,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “This is certainly one of the most unusual things I have had to deal with in my time with the company,” Coupe added.
The court case stems from the retailer’s failed bid to open stores in Egypt in 1999 by buying 80% of Egyptian Distribution Group, known as Edge. Sainsbury withdrew from the joint venture with local business man Amr El Nasharty and sold back its shares to him for about £111M, according to The Times.
Held Coupe to be responsible
A court in Giza ruled Sainsbury had tried to seize cheques connected with the doomed joint venture and held Coupe to be responsible as the retailer’s most senior employee.
Former ceo Justin King had been sentenced to three years‘ imprisonment in an Egyptian jail after his conviction for a “breach of trust” linked to the same joint venture, it also emerged last week.
Coupe on the court case
“I have a great legal team and I’m letting them work through it and I will get on with the day job. This is certainly one of the most unusual things I have had to deal with in my time with the company.”
Sainsbury said neither Coupe, King nor any other of its executives had acted improperly. “Mr El Nasharty has brought a number of spurious criminal and civil proceedings against Sainsbury and its employees, including Justin King, in the past,” said a spokeswoman.
“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 said it had taken all necessary steps to appeal against “these groundless claims” and did not expect the legal dispute to impact its profit performance. “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.”
Meanwhile, the retailer posted a loss of £72M in full year results today. While the results included a property write down of £620M, reflecting the falling value of its store portfolio, performance had also been hit by the tough trading environment.
Read more about the retailer’s latest results here.
The retailer’s previous results revealed a pretax loss of £290M in the first half of its financial year.
Last month Sainsbury said it planned to axe 800 jobs at its stores in a bid to save £500M over the next three years. The cuts – including 500 head office job losses announced in January – follow similar cost-saving programmes unveiled by its rivals Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.