- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The Dutch public prosecutor’s office said yesterday after weekend raids on the headquarters of Ahold that the office has begun a criminal investigation into the global grocery retailer’s suspected falsifying of documents and publishing of incorrect information in its annual reports.

Ahold said in a statement that its head offices in the Netherlands had been raided, and that it had “given its full cooperation” to investigators.

The Dutch offices of Ahold’s accountant, Deloitte & Touche, also were raided.

The probe by the prosecutor was a widening of the investigation begun in April, two months after Ahold shocked financial markets by announcing it had massively overstated earnings in 2001 and 2002.

Public prosecutor spokesman Tony Jagroob said the criminal investigation was focused on written agreements in which Ahold discussed its plans to consolidate several joint ventures in Scandinavia and Latin America.

The prosecutor’s office said it had not begun a criminal probe of Ahold’s U.S. Foodservice division, which overstated profits by an estimated $856 million in 2001-02.

Additional investigations into Ahold’s accounting are being conducted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. Justice Department and the Dutch market regulator.

More than half of Ahold’s sales are in the United States, where it owns various grocery chains including Giant, Tops, Stop & Shop and Bruno’s, as well as U.S. Foodservice, which delivers food to hotels, schools and restaurants.

Mr. Jagroob said the target of the investigation could be either the company itself or individual suspects.

He said it would probably be a matter of months before the prosecutor decides whether to press charges.

Ahold’s U.S. shares fell 79 cents to close at $8.36 yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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