November 20, 2014 / 6:23 PM / 3 years ago

UK court convicts ex JJB Sports boss of $1.6 mln fraud

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The former chief executive of failed retailer JJB Sports, once a British household name, was convicted of a 1 million pound ($1.6 million) fraud by a London court on Thursday, ending a five-year investigation.

A jury returned a unanimous verdict, finding 52-year-old Christopher Ronnie guilty of receiving three undeclared and dishonest cash payments from JJB suppliers in 2007 and 2008, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said in a statement.

David Ball and David Barrington, who were both beneficial owners of a JJB supplier called Fashion and Sport, were both found guilty of destroying evidence and misleading authorities.

The convictions mark a milestone for JJB Sports, founded by former professional footballer Dave Whelan in the 1970s to become one of Britain's largest sportswear retailers. But it went into administration in 2012 with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs following mounting losses and debts.

Ronnie was convicted of three offences of fraud by failing to disclose his interests in JJB contracts and two offences of furnishing false information. Ball, 54, and Barrington, 52, were each convicted of two offences of trying to pervert the course of justice.

The three men will be sentenced on Dec. 12 at Southwark Crown Court.

The SFO is bringing a separate case against JJB's former chairman David Jones and his son Stuart, who was head of marketing. That case centres on forgery and misleading statements made to the market in 2009.

However, an April trial was abandoned due to David Jones's ill health. A new trial date is currently set for February 2015.

1 US dollar = 0.6376 British pound Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; editing by Susan Thomas

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