Patisserie Valerie ex-CFO appears in London court on fraud charges

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) – Collapsed British bakery chain Patisserie Valerie’s former chief finance officer appeared in a London court on Tuesday on charges of fraudulently inflating the company’s balance sheet and misleading lenders Barclays and HSBC.

Christopher Marsh, 49, is accused of defrauding shareholders and creditors by inflating Patisserie Holdings’ cash on its balance sheets and annual reports between 2015 and 2018.

He appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court alongside his accountant wife Louise Marsh, 55, financial controller Pritesh Mistry, 41, and financial consultant Nileshkumar Lad, 50.

Christopher Marsh, Mistry and Lad are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud, five counts of fraud by false representation and one count of making an article for use in fraud.

Prosecutors say the trio made false statements to Barclays and HSBC about Patisserie Valerie’s cash reserves and why cheques were being stopped, and false statements to auditor Grant Thornton about purportedly genuine invoices.

Christopher Marsh faces an additional charge of publishing misleading financial information between 2015 and 2018 while finance director and company secretary of Patisserie Holdings.

His wife Louise Marsh faces a single count of conspiracy to defraud.

None of the four defendants were asked to enter a plea to any of the charges at Tuesday’s hearing, and their case was sent to Southwark Crown Court for a further hearing on Nov. 7.

Patisserie Valerie suspended trading in 2018, closing 70 stores with the loss of more than 900 jobs, after discovering a multi-million pound hole in its finances.

After a five-year investigation code named Operation Venom, the Serious Fraud Office announced it was charging the quartet last month.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Jan Harvey)