SFO charges four individuals behind Patisserie Valerie collapse

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has today brought fraud charges against four individuals, including a former director, who oversaw the financial failure of a chain of almost 200 high street bakeries.

The SFO has charged former director and Chief Financial Officer of Patisserie Holdings Plc for 12 years, Christopher Marsh, and his wife, accountant Louise Marsh, as well as Financial Controller Pritesh Mistry and financial consultant Nileshkumar Lad. All four suspects were served with charges at their homes.

The SFO opened a full investigation into the conduct, codenamed “Operation Venom”, in October 2018. This came two days after the company abruptly suspended trading, closing 70 stores and causing the loss of over 900 jobs across the country when its debts were revealed.

The SFO has charged all four suspects with conspiring to inflate the cash in Patisserie Holdings’ balance sheets and annual reports from 2015 to 2018, including by providing false documentation to the company’s auditors. During this time, the company also reported holding £28 million in accounts, yet concealed £10 million in debts from its investors and creditors.

The defendants are summoned to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 10 October 2023 to hear the charges against them.

Lisa Osofsky, Director of the SFO, said: “Patisserie Valerie’s abrupt collapse rocked our high streets – leaving boarded-up shops, devastating job losses and significant investor losses in its wake. Today is a step forward in getting to the bottom of this scandal.”

This case brings the total number of individuals charged by the SFO this year to ten, following fraud charges against three individuals in the Ethical Forestry Ltd case, and bribery charges against three individuals in the London Mining Plc case.