The former chief financial officer of failed discount retail chain, Harris Scarfe, admitted in the Supreme Court that he had cooked the books.

Alan Hodgson said he `manipulated the company's books to create artificially high profits.'

He alleged that he was required by his superiors to achieve a certain profit and inflated the gross profits of individual Harris Scarfe stores starting in 1997.

But he said he "always believed it was a timing thing and whatever took place would be resolved in the following period".

Mr Hodgson was the first of 14 people to be questioned about the financial collapse of the business.

Harris Scarfe went into voluntary administration in April after accounting irregularities were found.

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