Lawyers for Cees van der Hoeven said on the first day of two months of hearings here that Ahold's former chief executive "did not draw up any documents that he knew to be incorrect." Attorneys for Jan Andreae, the former European activities director, and Roland Fahlin, the former chairman of Ahold's accounting commission, said that their clients also believed that they had done nothing wrong.
Van der Hoeven and Ahold's former chief financial officer, Michiel Meurs, resigned in February 2003 after it was revealed that what was at the time the world's fourth-largest food retail and services group had overstated its profits by almost 1 billion euros. The overstatement admission prompted 70% to be knocked off Ahold's market value.
The company said that it had improperly booked promotional discounts at its U.S. Foodservice unit in the United States and had allowed improper consolidation of subsidiaries in Europe and South America. Ahold was then forced to restate its accounts from 2000 onwards and survived only after asset disposals, emergency credit and a recovery program led by a new chairman, Anders Moberg, the former chairman of Ikea.
Before entering the court yesterday, van der Hoeven was quoted as saying: "It's not the nicest time of my life, but I'm still going strong," adding that he did not fear the outcome of the case.
"If you can look at yourself straight in the mirror, you have nothing to be afraid of," he opined.
The trial is expected to run until May 8, with a judgment scheduled for May 22.