This story was originally published on our sister website betterRetailing
Wholesaler Hyperama is taking legal action against its former commercial director, Ali Guvemli, and managing director, Aris Poulis, over allegations of fraud and handing over confidential information to rival wholesaler Bestway.
The claims, which are strenuously denied by both defendants, alleged that Guvemli and Poulis downloaded confidential Hyperama Group data to their personal email accounts. This included catering and retail contact details, supplier contact details and information on pricing, sales and ranging. Hyperama claimed this data was collated in a spreadsheet entitled “plan” that was created by Bestway director Rizwan Pervez, according to Hyperama-employed digital forensicists.
Guvemli was later employed by Bestway, while Poulis’ work mobile was traced to Bestway’s office in Cardiff.
Hyperama said its “crown jewel” information had been used to make “a rudimentary three-year business plan” for Bestway so it could target Hyperama’s retail and foodservice customers.
In defence statements seen by betterRetailing, both Poulis and Guvemli said they did not know who created the document. Poulis claimed the document was sent to him by Guvemli and was a budget and forecast, not a business, plan.
The defendants denied editing or sharing the “plan” or any other confidential Hyperama information.Both said documents sent to their personal email addresses were “routine” and the use of personal email addresses was common practice to enable remote working.
Poulis admitted he attended a job interview with Bestway, but said he had told Hyperama he had “no intention of joining Bestway”.
A Bestway spokesperson told betterRetailing that Poulis “was not successful in securing a position”. Poulis instead claimed his decision to leave Hyperama was motivated by concerns of malpractice allegedly committed by the wholesaler including “inaccurate financial reporting”, “transport irregularities which put the public in danger”, incorrect ingredient labelling, importing goods under the incorrect tax codes and a failure by Hyperama to pay him a bonus.
Hyperama denied the claims in court, stating that a document found on Poulis’ work laptop entitled ‘RL’ contained his reasons for leaving, and did not include any of the claims listed above.
Hyperama also alleged the former staff members “acted fraudulently in the course of their employments by dishonestly diverting secret profits”. This was also denied by both defendants.
It claimed Poulis was involved in the setting-up of the wholesaler Foodtrade. It was alleged that Poulis and Guvemli used Foodtrade to purchase goods from Hyperama’s suppliers, before selling it on to Hyperama at an inflated price.
Hyperama said this had occurred on orders of seafood, poultry and potato goods.
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Hyperama managing director Marcus Singh told the court he was first tipped off about “suspicious trading activity” in October 2018, by a supplier.
To support its accusations against Poulis, Hyperama presented to the court a Foodtrade business card with Poulis’ name and details, and also an image of the details of a Foodtrade credit card allegedly found in Poulis’ email account.
The defendant claimed the business card was created by Foodtrade in “an attempt to persuade Aris to go to work for Foodtrade”. His legal team claimed that Poulis “does not understand why he was sent [the credit card details]”, and suggested it was a mistake by Foodtrade.
Both defendants denied involvement in the creation or operation of Foodtrade, or that they had been paid by any party for services to the wholesale company.
Poulis stated that he was not involved in the purchases associated with the fraud allegations, while Guvemli claimed he acted in the best interests of Hyperama, adding that he negotiated lower prices for Hyperama in the transactions brought to the court’s attention.
Hyperama refused to comment and Poulis did not respond to betterRetailing’s request.
Matthew Hodson, of Waterfront Solicitors, told betterRetailing: “Each and every allegation of wrongdoing made against Mr Guvemli is strenuously denied.”
Bestway said it could not comment on why a document allegedly created by its director was found in the defendant’s possession, and refused to deny it had requested or received confidential Hyperama information. A spokesperson told betterRetailing: “Bestway supports professional practice at all times and rejects any inference to the contrary.
“The issues raised are between Hyperama and the individuals concerned. Since Bestway is not directly involved, we cannot comment on documents to which we have not had access.” Bestway also said: “At the time of Ali’s employment, Bestway’s catering division already had a turnover in excess of £180m and the team had a brief to grow our business in London, while Hyperama’s business looks to cover Birmingham and the Midlands.”
The case continues with a cost-and-case management conference on 2 December at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.