The year-long Tesco accounting probe may soon come to an end as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has accelerated the investigation by focusing its time and resources on individuals wrapped up in its alleged accounting irregularities investigation, the Financial Times reported. The supermarket chain’s former chief executive Philip Clarke is one of the many former executives who are being probed in the criminal investigation.

Laurie McIlwee, the company’s former finance director was also interviewed by the SFO under Section 2 powers as a witness to the misconduct.

The SFO has not eliminated the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement with Tesco. David Green, director, SFO previously mentioned that he anticipates this investigation to be completed by the end of this year. The Financial Times said, the suspects in this case are unaware of when the SFO will make a decision on charges.

If the SFO investigation brings to light sufficient evidence against individuals at the senior level, the fraud office will then bring charges against Tesco under the “controlling mind” principle. In turn, this will put the SFO in a powerful position in DPA negotiations, where Tesco pays a heft fine and restructure its compliance systems by installing a monitor.  The SFO will then be able to forego the criminal charges, which could have dire effects on the company’s financial future.  

Last year at Compliance Week’s Europe conference, David Ward a former lawyer at Tesco told attendees that, “from a compliance perspective, I really need people to ‘get it,’ so they don’t screw up, or that if they do, they know and can tell me about it. That’s a critical difference.”

Ward was at the conference to share the story of how Tesco had developed a new approach to online compliance training—one that migrated from the rote, formal structure of so many programs to a more user-friendly approach that is inviting rather than intimidating.