Egypt court clears Sainsbury’s chief executive

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A court in Cairo has acquitted Mike Coupe, chief executive of J Sainsbury, of all charges against him in relation to a dispute with a former Egyptian joint-venture partner of the company.

Mr Coupe had been sentenced in September in his absence to two years in prison on charges of breaking Egyptian bankruptcy law in a case that goes back to the company’s shortlived attempt to enter the Egyptian market.

The case was brought against Mr Coupe, as the company’s representative, by Amr el-Nasharty, an Egyptian businessman and Sainsbury’s partner in the failed venture. He alleged that Mr Coupe had seized cheques relating to the collapsed business.

Sainsbury’s said: “We have always strongly refuted the legal case in Egypt brought against our chief executive Mike Coupe, which relates to a historic commercial dispute which has absolutely nothing to do with Mr Coupe. Mike was not employed by Sainsbury’s at the time of the original dispute in 2001 and has never met the complainant Mr el-Nasharty.”

Sainsbury’s had earlier said that the sentencing of Mr Coupe came after a trial of which he was not given notice. He flew to Egypt in April to appeal against the sentence. The company also alleged in a previous statement that when Mr el-Nasharty bought Sainsbury’s share of the business in 2001 he paid the company “with cheques that bounced”.

Mr el-Nasharty had alleged that Mr Coupe flew to Egypt in July 2014 and tried to seize the cheques in breach of the law. But Sainsbury’s said Mr Coupe was in London at the time of the alleged incident.

Joel Hills, ITV’s business editor, said in a tweet in April: “I can confirm that on July 15th 2014 Mike Coupe was not in Cairo ‘seizing cheques’, he was in London having breakfast with me. And he paid.”

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