Three men have been jailed for a scam which saw Sainsbury's overcharged by nearly £9 million.

Andrew Behagg, a former finance director at potato supplier Greenvale, and former Greenvale director David Baxter showered Sainsbury's potato buyer John Maylam with gifts and hospitality in return for lucrative contracts with the supermarket.

Maylam, 45, of Bearsted, Maidstone, Kent, who admitted corruption and acquiring criminal property, was jailed for four years at Croydon Crown Court, south London.

Baxter, 50, of Hinstock, near Market Drayton in Shropshire, who also admitted corruption and acquiring criminal property, was jailed for 30 months. Behagg, 60, from Chatteris in Cambridgeshire, who was found guilty of corruption by authorising payments to Maylam following a trial, was jailed for three years.

Judge Nicholas Ainley said it was "very nearly as serious a case of corruption as I can imagine" that involved Sainsbury's "being bribed with its own money".

A four-year police investigation revealed that £4.9 million was paid to Maylam out of a fund created by the overcharging of Sainsbury's. The total amount the supermarket says it was overcharged by was £8.7 million.

Judge Ainley said as he sentenced the men: "There will be many who find the details of frankly outrageous extravagance this case offers fascinating. But what must be remembered is that this is a case of bribery and corruption. But not just that. This is a case of corruption involving theft on a huge scale.

"Corruption because Greenvale wanted to keep the Sainsbury's contract - a contract for 45% of Sainsbury's potato contract worth about £40 million - and they offered Maylam, the Sainsbury's buyer, all the lavish entertainment he wanted, over £1 million of it."

The judge added that the bribery "may not have been necessary at all" and said: "There may not have been a danger of losing the business."

Maylam closed his eyes as his sentence was passed, while Baxter nodded his head slightly. Behagg did not react. As he left the dock, he mouthed the words "I love you" to his wife, who watched proceedings from the public gallery clutching a friend's hand.