London-based Engineering and Construction Firm Admits to Middle East Bribery

On December 2, a London-based engineering and construction firm admitted to violating Section 7 of the U.K.’s Bribery Act of 2010 – failure to prevent bribery – regarding its conduct in the Middle East. According to the firm, the underlying conduct was related to alleged bribery from 2009 to 2011 involving a former employee located in Dubai.

While the SFO has not yet announced specifics associated with the conduct or any penalties that may be imposed, it previously announced the opening of its investigation into the firm’s activities in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. This investigation appeared to have been triggered by a 2013 Wall Street Journal article that reported allegations of bribery involving the construction of a hospital in Morocco. According to the WSJ, a bribe was offered to a United Arab Emirates official’s personal foundation in order to secure the design work contract for the $100 million project.

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UK Serious Fraud Office Issues First Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Johannesburg-based Financial Group

On November 30, the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), working with the DOJ and SEC, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with a Johannesburg-based financial group under the U.K.’s Bribery Act of 2010 regarding payments by two former employees that were allegedly made to bribe members of the Tanzanian government. The DPA represents the SFO’s first-ever DPA and the first use of Section 7 of the Bribery Act, failure of commercial organizations to prevent bribery, by any U.K. prosecutor. As part of this DPA, the financial group agreed to pay a combined $32.2 million in sanctions to the U.K. and Tanzania, and to cover the SFO’s litigation and investigation costs. The DPA also requires the financial group’s continued cooperation with authorities and the implementation of certain recommendations from its independent compliance consultants. Read more…


Three Acquitted In UK Trial For Alleged Nigerian Corruption

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.


UK SFO Revises Guidance on Self-Reporting

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.