On October 9, the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (SFO) issued policy statements and frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) with regard to: (1) facilitation payments, (2) hospitality and gifts, and (3) self-reporting. While the bulk of the guidance reasserts existing policies, the SFO did revise its guidance on self-reporting. The new guidance makes clear SFO’s position that self-reporting will not always shield a company from prosecution. The fact that a corporate body has reported itself will be a relevant consideration if it forms part of a “genuinely proactive approach adopted by the corporate management team when the offending is brought to their notice.” A decision by the SFO to prosecute will be based on the Full Code Test in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the joint prosecution Guidance on Corporate Prosecutions and, where relevant, the Joint Prosecution Guidance of the Director of the SFO and the Director of Public Prosecutions on the Bribery Act 2010. As explained in the FAQs, the revised statement of policy is not limited to allegations involving overseas bribery and corruption, and if the requirements of the Full Code Test are not established, the SFO may consider civil recovery as an alternative to a prosecution.
On May 27, a London jury found three employees of Swift Technical Solutions Ltd (Swift) not guilty of corruption charges in connection with alleged corrupt payments to tax officials in Nigeria. The SFO announced the verdict on June 2. As to one defendant, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on one count and was discharged; the SFO informed the Southwark Crown Court that it would not seek to retry that defendant on that count and the court entered a verdict of not guilty.
The SFO brought the corruption charges in late 2012 after a two-year investigation related to the tax affairs of a Swift Nigerian subsidiary. The SFO alleged that the Swift employees paid bribes totaling approximately £180,000 in 2008 and 2009 to Nigerian tax officials to avoid, reduce, or delay paying tax on behalf of workers placed by Swift. The alleged bribes occurred before the enactment of the U.K. Bribery Act and allegedly went to agents of two Nigerian Boards of Internal Revenue – the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue and the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue. The SFO did not charge Swift with any criminal offense, citing its cooperation with the agency.