Four people including a former director have been charged over the collapse of the Patisserie Valerie bakery chain.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said the individuals oversaw the "financial failure" of the business, which at one point had almost 200 high street sites.
It has today (13 September) charged Chris Marsh, who was chief financial officer of Patisserie Valerie for 12 years, his wife, accountant Louise Marsh, as well as financial controller Pritesh Mistry and financial consultant Nileshkumar Lad.
An investigation into the company, nicknamed ‘Operation Venom', was launched by the SFO in October 2018. This happened two days after Patisserie Valerie abruptly suspended trading after discovering a hole in its accounts.
The business ultimately closed 70 stores, with the loss of over 900 jobs, when its debts were revealed.
All four suspects have been charged with conspiring to inflate the cash in Patisserie Holdings' balance sheets and annual reports from 2015 to 2018, including by providing false documentation to the company's auditors.
During this time, the company also reported holding £28m in accounts, yet concealed £10m in debts from its investors and creditors.
The defendants were served with charges at their homes. They are summoned to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 10 October 2023 to hear the charges against them.
Lisa Osofsky, director of the SFO, said: "Patisserie Valerie's abrupt collapse rocked our high streets – leaving boarded-up shops, devastating job losses and significant investor losses in its wake. Today is a step forward in getting to the bottom of this scandal."
The remaining 96 Patisserie Valerie sites was sold to Ireland-based Causeway Capital Partners in February 2019 after its parent company collapsed into administration following discovery of the potential fraud.
Accountancy firm Grant Thornton, which audited Patisserie Valerie for 12 years, was fined a reported £200m in 2022 for failing to spot any irregularities in its accounts.
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