A potato buyer for Sainsbury’s has been arrested after claims that he had received up to £3m of illegal payments from a supplier.

The buyer, John Maylam, was questioned by City of London police after accusations that he had allegedly received money from an employee at Shropshire-based supplier Greenvale which provides about half of Sainsbury’s potatoes.

Internal investigation

The Greenvale employee at the centre of the allegations was David Baxter the company’s operations director. Mr Baxter was also arrested at the weekend and a spokesman for Greenvale told Farmers Weekly:

“This matter was brought to the attention of J. Sainsbury PLC by Produce Investments Ltd, the holding company of Greenvale AP, after an internal investigation into payments made to individuals outside the group.

“The matter was then referred to the police and an investigation is being carried out by the City of London Police Fraud Squad.”

Two men arrested

A police spokesman confirmed that an investigation was under way. “City of London police executed and completed search warrants at two residential addresses in Cambridgeshire and Shropshire and two business premises in Shropshire on Thursday March 13.

“Two men were arrested on suspicion of corruption and money laundering and were subsequently bailed.”

Sainsbury’s says it too notified police after being alerted to the problem by Greenvale.

High standards

A spokeswoman for the supermarket said: “We can confirm that allegations have been made concerning certain payments and benefits by a supplier to an individual employed by us.

“We have the highest standards of corporate governance and following inquiries have passed our findings to the police for further investigation.”

Greenvale, based in Tern Hill, Shropshire, won the Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2006 and is one of the country’s main potato suppliers.