The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has pulled the plug on its investigations into Azlan over suspected offences of false accounting, because of insufficient evidence to prosecute.
Investigations into the networking distributor began in April 1998 under Section 47 of the Financial services Act 1986. They revolved around how a #15 million profit forecast became a #14.1 million loss (PC Dealer, 22 April 1998). Under the Act, some former members of Azlan's senior management team faced up to seven years' imprisonment if the offences were proved.
An SFO representative said: 'We have concluded there is no reason to continue the investigation', adding there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute.
Azlan's financial year ended 5 April 1997, was investigated by the SFO amid rumours of serious discrepancies in accounting. Azlan had, by this time, lost several key figures through resignation and dismissal, including chief executive Christian Martin and financial director Adrian Lamb.
Lamb would not be drawn directly on the case, but said: 'I'm sure it was thoroughly investigated.' Asked if he was relieved by the announcement, Lamb insisted it was not an investigation he was ever concerned about.
Industry response to the announcement was mixed. Some observers felt that Azlan had been 'let off the hook' and that the case was doomed to failure because those involved had already left the company. Others felt Azlan should never have been investigated in the first place.
Analyst Richard Holway, analyst said Azlan could breathe a 'collective sigh of relief'.
Steve Lockie, general manager of networking at Computer 2000, said: 'Competition is always good for the industry. Azlan gives us something to measure ourselves against. Welcome back Azlan.'
Wayne Channon, ex-chief executive of Ilion, said: 'I never believed Azlan was involved in anything criminal. It was just a case of mismanagement.
But who actually knows what went on in terms of the lack of management control.'
Ross Jobber, analyst at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, said: 'It was always hard to bring cases against companies in this way. But from the market point of view, the investigation is good because it draws a line between the past and future.'
Peter Bertram, chief executive of Azlan said the company was 'pleased with the decision.'
Security firm set to become part of acquisitive Shearwater Group
Distributor merges three northern sites into one new hub in Warrington
Activist investor puts forward five director candidates as turmoil continues at security giant
Nima Green asks what is driving public cloud uptake in Germany