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Directors Plead Guilty in U.K. to Angola Bribe Scheme
On September 15, a logistics and shipping company, and six of its current and former directors pleaded guilty in the U.K. to charges of conspiracy to pay bribes in Angola. The trial against a seventh man charged in the conspiracy started this week in London. The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office charged the company and the seven individuals last year with allegedly paying bribes when the company was seeking to obtain freight forwarding services contracts with the Angolan state oil company between January 2005 and December 2006.
SFO Director Urges Department to Compete With DOJ on Home Turf
In a September 4 speech, Serious Fraud Office (SFO) Director David Green urged the SFO to lead anti-corruption enforcement efforts against UK-connected companies, warning that “if we take our foot off the pedal . . . , others will fill the void.” Green noted that the DOJ “is not shy about enforcing the [FCPA] against foreign companies,” and emphasized that seven of the top ten highest-dollar FCPA cases since 2008 were brought against non-American companies. Green said that “it is surely right that the UK should lead enforcement in relation to UK companies or companies with strong connections here,” because it not only “demonstrates our commitment to the level playing field,” but it also “ensures that hefty financial penalties go to UK public coffers rather than elsewhere.”
SFO Announces Charges Against British Multinational Bank and Four Former Executives in Qatar
On Tuesday, June 20, the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) announced charges against a British multinational bank and four former executives for conspiracy to commit fraud and provision of unlawful financial assistance in violation of the Companies Act 1985. These charges relate to the bank’s capital raising arrangements with a Qatar's state-owned holding company and a contract oil and gas land drilling provider in June and October 2008, as well as to a $3 billion loan facility made available to the State of Qatar acting through the Ministry of Economy and Finance in November 2008. According to the SFO press release, the investigation was first announced in 2012, and the individuals charged include a former Chief Executive Officer of the British multinational bank, a former Executive Chairman of the bank’s Capital Investment Banking and Investment Management in Middle East and North Africa, a former Chief Executive of the bank’s Wealth and Investment Management, and a former European Head of the bank’s Financial Institutions Group.
While no US-based charges have been announced, the SFO’s announcement comes on the heels of the bank’s March 2017 disclosure to the SEC in which the company stated that “the DOJ and SEC are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist the bank to win or retain business are compliant with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
SFO Charges Additional Individual Defendant in Connection with German-Based Company North Sea Investigation
The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has reportedly charged the former chief commercial officer of a German-based company with two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments to assist the company with attaining or retaining contracts for freight forwarding services to the North Sea oil exploration project Jasmine. The former executive is the seventh individual charged, in addition to the company, with violations of section 1 of the UK Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 for alleged conduct between January 2010 and May 2013 in connection with the Jasmine project.
The charges follow on the heels of separate corruption charges against the company and other individuals related to an Angolan project. Last July, the SFO charged the company and seven individuals with violation of section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 through conspiring to make corrupt payments between January 2005 and December 2006 to an agent of the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, in order to facilitate the company’s freight forwarding business operations and contracts in Angola.
French Financial Crimes Investigator Joins SFO Criminal Investigation of Aircraft Manufacturer
On Thursday, March 16, 2017, an aircraft manufacturer based in Toulouse, France, reportedly announced that a preliminary investigation has been opened by the Parquet National Financier, France’s financial crimes investigator, regarding the same fraud, bribery, and corruption allegations being probed by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The company stated that the investigations into the use of third party agents by the company’s civil aviation business are being conducted in tandem, and it plans to cooperate fully with both the PNF and SFO. This unusual cooperation between France and the UK could potentially lead to the first use of a deferred prosecution agreement following France’s November 2016 enactment of the Law on Transparency, the Fight against Corruption and Modernization of Economic Life, which was enacted in response to international pressure on the French government to strengthen its corruption laws following severe sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice on French companies in recent years.
For prior coverage of the SFO’s investigation, please click here.
CEO Questioned by UK SFO in Bribery Investigation
Less than a month ago, as previously reported on FCPA Scorecard, a UK-based manufacturer and global distributor for the civil aerospace, defense aerospace, marine, and energy sectors, entered into deferred prosecution agreements with the DOJ and UK SFO to resolve allegations that the company conspired to violate anti-bribery laws around the world. Now, Reuters reports that the company’s CEO has been questioned by the SFO regarding bribery allegations. According to the article, the SFO refused to comment on the report, citing concerns about an ongoing investigation.
Both the DOJ and SFO have repeatedly stated that they intend to pursue bribery cases against individuals. But there is so far no indication that the DOJ is also investigating the company’s CEO. Although DOJ could pursue such an investigation in the future, the agency may also defer to the SFO to handle the matter.
UK-based Manufacturer Settles FCPA Charges As Part of $800 Million Global Bribery Investigation Resolution
On January 17, a UK-based manufacturer and distributor for the civil aerospace, defense aerospace, marine, and energy sectors worldwide, agreed to pay nearly $170 million to the DOJ to resolve charges that it conspired to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA around the world. The settlement with the DOJ (via a three-year deferred prosecution agreement (DPA)), was a fraction of the company's $800 million global resolution in connection with bribes paid to government officials in exchange for government contracts in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, Brazil, Kazahkstan, Azerbaijan, Angola, and Iraq.
In addition to settling with the DOJ, the company resolved charges with the UK SFO by entering into a DPA and agreeing to pay a fine of $604,808,392. The company entered into a leniency agreement with the Brazilian Ministério Público Federal (MPF) and agreed to pay a penalty of $25,579,170.
According to the DPA Statement of Facts, the company admitted that between 2000 and 2013, it conspired to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA by paying more than $35 million in bribes to foreign officials in exchange for confidential information and/or government contracts. Many of these contracts benefited RRESI, the company’s indirect U.S. subsidiary. The company made the majority of the bribes by inflating commission payments to third-party intermediaries, who then paid part of the commission as bribes to government officials.
The DOJ lauded the company’s cooperation in its investigation and as a result, the company received a 25 percent reduction from the low end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range due. However, the DOJ refused to award the company any voluntary disclosure credit. The DOJ has been transparent that it only will award voluntary disclosure credit when the disclosure occurs prior to an imminent threat of disclosure or government investigation. Here, that test was not satisfied because the company did not disclose the conduct until after media reports and the related SFO inquiry began.
SFO Announces Criminal Investigation of International Aircraft Manufacturer
On August 8, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced that it is conducting an investigation of an international aircraft manufacturer. The SFO stated that the investigation centers on the use of third party consultants. The SFO’s brief announcement asked for individuals with information to contact the agency through its confidential reporting system.