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Sainsbury's boss in Egypt legal row

Published 29/04/2015

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe has been sentenced to jail in Egypt. (Picture: J Sainsbury)
Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe has been sentenced to jail in Egypt. (Picture: J Sainsbury)

Sainsbury's boss Mike Coupe has been caught up in a bizarre legal drama in Egypt which has seen him sentenced in his absence to two years in jail, it emerged today.

The case relates to what the supermarket refers to as a "historic commercial dispute" dating back 14 years, before Mr Coupe worked for the company. The charge apparently alleges a form of embezzlement.

Sainsbury's said it strongly denied all allegations against it.

Mr Coupe attended a court in Giza last Sunday to appeal against his conviction - which dates back to last September - in an appearance carefully orchestrated by the British ambassador John Casson, according to The Times.

The newspaper reported that the case centres on the supermarket's abortive venture in Egypt which it left in 2001 nursing losses of more than £100 million.

It relates to a long-running dispute with the supermarket's former joint venture partner Amr el-Nasharty.

Mr el-Nasharty apparently now claims that last July Mr Coupe attempted to seize cheques from him in Egypt, a claim the supermarket describes as "an impossibility".

The allegation is that this took place when Mr Coupe had just become chief executive of Sainsbury's.

A spokeswoman said: "We strongly refute the legal case in Egypt brought against our chief executive Mike Coupe. This relates to a historic commercial dispute in which Mr Coupe had no involvement.

"Mike was not even employed by Sainsbury's at the time of the original business deal in 2001 which gave rise to these legal proceedings and has never met the complainant Mr el-Nasharty.

"Mr el-Nasharty has consistently made false claims against Sainsbury's and individuals within the business over the years, all of which have been unsuccessful.

"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.

"Mike Coupe was in London carrying out his normal duties that day. Mike Coupe was tried in absentia by an Egyptian court, without prior notice that he needed to attend, and we are contesting these groundless allegations."

Sainsbury's added that the case was being handled by its legal team and said: "We do not anticipate it having any material operational or financial impact on the company."

The Times said Mr el-Nasharty had declined to comment.

Sainsbury's, the UK's third biggest supermarket, is due to report full-year results next week.

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