The public prosecutor in the Netherlands has said that it has begun an investigation into troubled Dutch retail giant Royal Ahold.
It is the first time that Dutch justice authorities have confirmed that they are investigation Ahold, although a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office declined to reveal the extent or the nature of the investigation.
“We have received some papers from Ahold and we are looking into them,” the spokesman was quoted by Dow Jones Business News as saying. He added that if the investigations reveal any wrongdoing at Ahold it could result in criminal prosecution of the managers involved.
Chief executive Cees van der Hoeven and chief financial officer Michiel Meurs both resigned following revelations that accounting irregularities had led to earnings being overstated.
Authorities in the US are already investigating the accounting irregularities at Ahold’s US Foodservice food distribution unit.
A Dutch newspaper report linked the Dutch investigation with the way Ahold accounted for its 50% owned ICA joint venture in Sweden, accounting for it as if it fully owned the business, reported Dow Jones Business News.
Meanwhile, an Ahold board member has said that the company aims to propose a new chief executive to shareholders in mid-May.
“There is an (interim) finance director now, and the search is on for a chief executive,” the Ahold board member was quoted as saying by Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There is a shareholders meeting in mid-May, and the expectation is that we will have found somebody by then.”
An Ahold spokeswoman confirmed the retailer hoped to be able to present a chief executive by that time.
“There are talks going on, and we will make an announcement as soon as possible. But there is no certainty we will have somebody by then,” she said.
Elsewhere, the Argentine securities authorities have turned down a request by Ahold’s South American unit Disco to report its fourth-quarter earnings two months late.
The Buenos Aires Stock Exchange on Friday ordered Disco to report the earnings within five working days, reported Dow Jones International News.