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Dutch shareholder group sues Deloitte over Ahold fraud


AMSTERDAM—Dutch shareholders' association VEB said on Wednesday it is suing Deloitte and 178 of its current and former partners for damages over the firm's involvement in Dutch retailer Ahold's multi-billion-euro accounting scandal.

Ahold—which owns the Albert Heijn supermarket chain, the market leader in the Netherlands—revealed in 2003 its profits had been overstated by almost €1 billion ($1.32 billion) after an aggressive acquisition spree.

Dutch prosecutors went after former Chief Executive Cees van der Hoeven, who was convicted of fraud and given a suspended jail sentence.

VEB said it was seeking a court ruling on whether Deloitte, which was one of Ahold's auditors during the period when it inflated profits, was responsible for issuing misleading opinions on Ahold's financial statements.

"The VEB will press for compensation for affected investors. The exact damage still needs to be established. The total damage in the Ahold case amounted to many billions," VEB said in a statement on Wednesday.

Deloitte said it had also been deceived by Ahold in the fraud and would defend itself against VEB's legal action.

"The fraud was partly intended to deceive Deloitte as auditor. Several courts—including the Dutch criminal court, confirmed that over the years. Deloitte itself denounced the fraud," it said in a statement.

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