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AMSTERDAM -- Confidential letters will prove that four former Royal Ahold top executives, including the onetime c.e.o., perjured themselves, a prosecutor said today in opening arguments in the trial of the four men, who have been charged with, among other things, falsely reporting sales from Ahold subsidiaries in Scandinavia and Latin America as part of a scandal that helped plunge the retail conglomerate into financial chaos. The four defendants maintain their innocence.
Although the company said in public documents that it had a controlling stake in the companies, the prosecutors hope to show through the secret letters that the executives intentionally misrepresented the issue of control, prosecutor Anita van Dis said in court.
The defendants in the trial, said to be the biggest white-collar criminal case brought in the Netherlands, are Cees van der Hoeven, Ahold's former c.e.o.; Michiel Meurs, ex-chief financial officer; Jan Andreae, a former executive board member; and Roland Fahlin, a former supervisory board member.
Van der Hoeven and Meurs resigned from Ahold in February 2003 after fraud at the company, including the exaggeration of sales at Columbia, Md.-based U.S. Foodservice, Ahold's American distribution arm, became known. In connection with the U.S. Foodservice scandal, the men reached a settlement with the SEC, admitting no guilt but agreeing to a lifetime ban from holding office in publicly traded companies.
Later this year U.S. Foodservice executives will go on trial in the United States, in connection with the falsely reported sales. The verdict in the Dutch trial is expected May 22.