Three Tesco directors are in court on fraud charges. The food-fancying fanatic (alleged) fraudsters have, it seems, been cooking the books as well as cooking all manner of tempting produce. The whiff of bullshit has been detected at Tesco HQ instead of the usual sumptuous aroma of freshly-baked pizza.

Tesco is famous for discounting. Pile it high, sell it cheap was the business motto, but by selling ever cheaper items, it appears that profits have been sold down the river. While the stores sold out of bread and milk, the directors sold out on its shareholders.

In fact, it appears that the directors may have been milking the company for greater profits, creaming off money that wasn’t theirs. Hardly the milk of human kindness.

Dedicated researchers have skimmed (or, in Tesco’s case, semi-skimmed) the accounts of many large companies. Almost without exception, profits increase year on year. The financial sleight-of-hand required to achieve this is common practice and surprisingly legal. Surplus slush funds are created to hide cash which is then released during lean periods. Tesco’s fund must have dried up, as they tried to bring in profits from the future.

It would be slanderous to suggest that the directors’ motivation was connected to the fact that their own massive bonuses relied on reporting huge profits. So we won’t.

The revelations led to a loss of confidence on Tesco, and by association the entire stock market. It is odd how a world of highly stressed and volatile numbers driven by egocentric men in traditional red braces could ever be less than strong and stable. The effects upon the poor stockbrokers has been catastrophic, some of their bonuses this year being only just enough to buy a yacht.

Frugal discount hunters have not been discounted. They are being asked to contribute voluntarily to a directors’ poverty fund. Every little helps.

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