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    Former Ahold Execs Convicted and Sentenced in Fraud Case

    AMSTERDAM -- Cees van der Hoeven, the ex-c.e.o. of retail conglomerate Ahold here, and the company's former c.f.o., Michiel Meurs, were found guilty of fraud by a Dutch court and both sentenced to nine-month suspended jail terms yesterday after a nine-week trial, according to published reports. The fraud was in connection with an accounting scandal that came to light in 2003 and subsequently hurled Ahold into financial disarray, from which it has gradually been emerging.

    AMSTERDAM -- Cees van der Hoeven, the ex-c.e.o. of retail conglomerate Ahold here, and the company's former c.f.o., Michiel Meurs, were found guilty of fraud by a Dutch court and both sentenced to nine-month suspended jail terms yesterday after a nine-week trial, according to published reports. The fraud was in connection with an accounting scandal that came to light in 2003 and subsequently hurled Ahold into financial disarray, from which it has gradually been emerging.

    The court found the executives guilty of misleading accountants to increase company sales by improperly consolidating the results of several retail subsidiaries and adding sales of joint ventures in Scandinavia and South America to Ahold's accounts. Both men, who quit in the wake of the scandal, have denied any wrongdoing.

    Van der Hoeven and Meurs additionally each received fines of 225,000 euros ($286,800). Prosecutors had asked for 20-month sentences, partly suspended, for the men.

    Regarding the other Ahold officials on trial, Jan Andreae, the onetime board member responsible for Europe, received a four-month suspended sentence and 120,000-euro fine, while Roland Fahlin, a former supervisory board member and accountancy committee chairman for the company, was acquitted. Prosecutors had requested 12-month sentences for Andreae and Fahlin, both partly suspended.

    Prosecutors are considering appealing the sentences as too light, as they require no actual jail time. Van der Hoeven has also said he would appeal. "I still maintain that we did not act in any fraudulent manner whatsoever," he told Reuters. "I had hoped for another outcome."

    Ahold itself wasn't charged in the case. The company settled corporate fraud charges with the SEC two years ago without paying a fine because of its "exceptional" cooperation with the commission.

    Ahold this month launched a review of the company's retail operations in a bid to drive and fund identical-store sales volume growth across its businesses.

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