Ex-JJB chief ordered to pay £633,000 over fraud - Barry Stancombe prosecuting

Chris Ronnie was sentenced to four years in prison in December 2014 for taking up to £1 million in bribes.

Yesterday, the former chief executive of JJB Sports was ordered at his confiscation hearing to pay £633,000 for his role in one of the retail industry’s most notorious frauds. Southwark crown court said yesterday that he should pay the money within three months or face another five years in jail. He is due to be released next December.

Ronnie was one of a group of business people who aimed to make a fortune from the growth in the market for cheap leisurewear. He was dubbed a “lifestyle criminal” by the Serious Fraud Office after being convicted of three counts of fraud while at JJB, parts of which were later sold to Sports Direct.

He was found guilty of taking cash payments from suppliers and of providing false information. Ronnie used the cash to fund a lavish lifestyle and an expensive property portfolio, including a holiday home in Florida that has since been sold.

A schedule of assets from which Ronnie will need to secure payment under the confiscation order include a home in Cheshire, half a house in Marbella, Spain, a Range Rover with a registration plate of 258CR, and a Rolex watch worth £5,000.

Ronnie watched proceedings yesterday via videolink from prison. The judge, Nicholas Loraine-Smith, said that he was “almost unrecognisable” from the time of his conviction, having lost a lot of weight in prison.

Mark Thompson, of the SFO, said: “We are committed to ensuring that fraudsters do not retain the benefit of their crimes. We will take steps to make sure the order is satisfied within the period set by the court.”

Ronnie ran JJB between August 2007 and March 2009, during which time its share price collapsed from more than 200p to less than 3p. Ronnie, the son of a Daily Express journalist, became the managing director of Diadora in 1995, later working for Sir Tom Hunter and Umbro. On becoming chief executive of JJB, he described himself as “one of the luckiest fellows alive”. JJB was founded by Dave Whelan, the former footballer and Wigan Athletic owner, and became one of the most recognisable names on the high street.

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