Dutch retailer Ahold has announced its chief executive Cees van der Hoeven and chief financial officer Michael Meurs will resign after accounting irregularities were found at its US Foodservice unit.

Ahold said in a statement: “Recently, during the fiscal year 2002 year-end audit for US Foodservice, significant accounting irregularities were discovered in the recognition of income, including prepayment amounts related to US Foodservice's promotional allowance programs.”

Ahold further announced that it has been investigating, through forensic accountants, the legality of certain transactions and the accounting treatment at its Argentine subsidiary Disco.

Supervisory Board Chairman Henny de Ruiter has been appointed to oversee their duties but Van der Hoeven and Meurs will stay on for an “appropriate period of time in order to effect an orderly transition of affairs”.

In the same statement Ahold, which issued two profit warnings last year, said its 2002 net profit would be significantly lower than expected and that it would have to restate earnings for 2000, 2001 and last year's interim results.

The company said it believed operating earnings for 2001 and 2002 could have been overstated by more than $500m, with most of this occurring last year.

Ahold has deferred the announcement of its full year results scheduled for March 5. Ahold’s auditors have also informed Ahold that they are suspending the fiscal year 2002 audit pending completion of these investigations. 2000, 2001 and last year's interim results.