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Ex-Patisserie Valerie finance chief and three others appear in court on fraud charges

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The former chief financial officer of collapsed café chain Patisserie Valerie appeared in court on Tuesday accused of fraudulently conspiring to inflate cash on the group’s balance sheet, alongside three other defendants.

Ex-CFO Christopher Marsh, 49, has been charged with dishonestly agreeing to inflate and misstate the cash in Patisserie Valerie’s balance sheets between 2015 and 2018, and misleading banks Barclays and HSBC.

He appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning along with his wife Louise Marsh, 55, former financial controller Pritesh Mistry, 41, and financial consultant Nileshkumar Lad, 50.

Christopher Marsh, Lad and Mistry have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud, five counts of fraud by false representation, and one count of making or supplying documents used for fraud.

The trio is accused of making false statements to lenders HSBC and Barclays about the bakery’s cash reserves before it collapsed four years ago and the reason that cheques were being stopped. They also allegedly made false statements to auditor Grant Thornton, namely that certain invoices issued between 2015 and 2018 were genuine.

Christopher Marsh faces one additional count of publishing a statement “with intent to deceive members or creditors”, for his role publishing the company’s interim results and annual accounts.

Louise Marsh, an accountant, faces a single count of conspiracy to defraud.

The accusations relate to the financial failure of Patisserie Valerie, a chain of almost 200 high street bakeries, which collapsed in 2019 after uncovering “potentially fraudulent” accounting irregularities.

The UK Serious Fraud Office opened an investigation codenamed “Operation Venom” in October 2018, two days after the company suspended trading and closed 70 stores. The collapse resulted in 900 job losses.

The charges were not read out in court and the group only spoke to confirm their names and addresses. Christopher Marsh’s barrister, Keir Monteith KC, indicated his client would plead not guilty to the charges. The three other defendants gave no indication of what plea they would enter, which the judge said would be taken as an intention by all to plead not guilty.

The case was sent to Southwark Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on November 7.

All four were granted conditional bail, with an instruction not to contact each other, with the exception of Christopher and Louise Marsh, who are married.

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