Ex-JJB CEO Ronnie Hid $1.6 Million in Payments, Prosecutor Says

Christopher Ronnie, the former chief executive officer of JJB Sports Plc, used funds from more than 1 million pounds ($1.64 million) in secret payments from companies the sporting-goods chain worked with to buy property in Florida, prosecutors said.

Ronnie “failed to disclose to the board of directors his financial interest in each transaction,” Miranda Moore, the lead prosecutor for the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office, said today at the start of a two-month trial. “He wanted to keep the money for himself.”

The allegations focus on JJB’s purchase of the Travel Fox sports brand as well as an agreement with Fashion and Sport Ltd. to supply the U.K. retailer, prosecutors said. The payments were made between December 2007 and September 2008.

Ronnie, 52, who was JJB CEO from August 2007 until March 2009, is charged with three counts of fraud, two counts of money laundering, and furnishing false information.

David Ball, an accountant and joint owner of Fashion and Sport Ltd. is charged with furnishing false information for his part in the fraud as well as perverting the course of justice. David Barrington, Ball’s business partner, faces two charges of obstruction of justice.

Ronnie says that each of the three payments made to him or his private company, Seacroft Management Ltd., were loans to buy the Florida property, Moore said.

“Generally speaking you do not loan hundreds of thousands of pounds and dollars to somebody without some paperwork,” she said.

Ronnie has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will present defense arguments later in the trial.

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