Ex-JJB boss stays silent in fraud trial

Former JJB Sports chief executive Christopher Ronnie
Former JJB Sports chief executive Christopher Ronnie

THE former chief executive of Wigan-based JJB Sports accused of a £1m fraud has chosen not to give evidence in his defence at his trial.

Christopher Ronnie, 52, was warned by the judge that jurors may “draw such inferences as appear proper” by his failure to take to the witness box.

Ronnie, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, is accused of receiving three payments from two sporting goods companies and failing to declare them to JJB’s board of directors. Southwark Crown Court heard he used some of the cash to splash out on property in Florida.

It had been anticipated he would give evidence in his defence, but his barrister Jim Sturman QC today told the jury: “We are calling no evidence at all for Ronnie.”

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith replied: “You have advised your client that the stage has now been reached that he may give evidence, and if he has chosen not to do so, the jury may draw such inferences as appear proper from his failure to do so?”

Mr Sturman QC nodded and said: “He has been so advised.”

The allegations centre around three large loans of several hundred of thousands of pounds each which Ronnie received in 2008 while based at JJB headquarters at Martland Park.

His co-defendants David Ball and David Barrington are accused of helping falsify records and cover his tracks.

Jurors heard that Ronnie’s company Seacroft received a payment of £650,000 in February 2008 from Performance Brands - a sports goods supplier Ball and Barrington were both associated with.

In June that year he allegedly received $380,000, about £197,000, from Fashion and Sport - another supplier the pair were linked to.

A third payment, again from Fashion and Sport, was allegedly made to Ronnie in November 2008, this time of 250,000 US dollars, about £134,000. The court heard Ronnie owed £11m to Icelandic bank Kaupthing Singer Friedlander, and agreed he would provide it with documents about his loans and assets.

But Ronnie and Ball allegedly falsified information about his assets and liabilities over these loans when he bought shares in JJB Sports.

Ball and Barrington are also accused of covering up a series of emails relating to the loans.

It is claimed the pair later asked a computer engineer to wipe any trace of the emails, but he was so concerned about what he found he kept a copy for himself and contacted the Serious Fraud Office.

Ronnie, who was JJB Sports chief executive between August 2007 and March 2009, denies three counts of fraud in relation to failing to disclose interests in contracts entered into by the now defunct JJB Sports, and two counts of furnishing false information.

Ball, 54, from Sutton, Surrey, an accountant and supplier to JJB, denies three offences of furnishing false information and two counts of perverting the course of justice.

His business partner, Barrington, 52, from Sale, Cheshire, denies two counts of perverting the course of justice.