Former chief financial officer of bakery chain Patisserie Valerie, Christopher Marsh, has denied fraud as he appeared in court yesterday (10 October).

He appeared alongside his wife Louise Marsh, financial controller Pritesh Mistry, and financial consultant Nileshkumar Lad, who have all been accused of defrauding the company’s shareholders and creditors between October 2015 and October 2018.

During a brief hearing, the court was told that Marsh intends to fight the charges at trial, while the other defendants did not indicate any pleas. 

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) brought the charges against the four individuals, who oversaw the financial failure of a chain of almost 200 high street bakeries.

The SFO opened an investigation into the conduct, codenamed ‘Operation Venom’, in October 2018, two days after the company abruptly suspended trading, closing 70 stores.

Lisa Osofsky, director of the SFO, said upon announcing the charges, “Patisserie Valerie’s abrupt collapse rocked our high streets – leaving boarded-up shops, devastating job losses and significant investor losses in its wake. Today is a step forward in getting to the bottom of this scandal.”

All four defendants have been released on bail until a plea hearing at Southwark crown court on 7 November.

According to reports, Patisserie Valerie plans to reopen two sites after shuttering the majority of its estate when it fell into administration in 2019.

The Causeway Capital-backed group closed “a number of loss-making sites” in 2022, as it undertook a restructure to strengthen its financial position.

The brand currently operate a number of sites across London, as well as a cluster in the South East, including in Winchester, Basingstoke and High Wycombe, and further sites in the north including York, Leeds, Chester and Durham.