Company at centre of bribery enquiry must pay £6million fine but avoids prosecution

News Article

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has announced a second deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) which will see a firm pay more than £6million for corruption and bribery offences.

The deal was reached between the unnamed company and SFO officials and was approved by Lord Justice Leveson.

The counterparty has at present only been identified as “a UK SME”, with the SFO having said that the firm cannot be named as a result of related legal proceedings which are still ongoing.

The suspended charges relate to an eight year period starting in 2004, during which time a number of the company’s employees and agents were involved in the offer and payment of bribes in order to secure contracts abroad.

This activity triggered a lengthy investigation by officials at the SFO. David Green QC, the SFO’s director, said: “This case raised the issue about how the interests of justice are served in circumstances where the company accused of criminality has limited financial means with which to fulfil the terms of a DPA but demonstrates exemplary co-operation. This case provides a clear example to corporates. The judgment sets out the considerations in detail and endorses the approach we took.”

Lord Justice Leveson said: “[This conclusion] provides an example of the value of self-report and co-operation along with the introduction of appropriate compliance mechanisms, all of which can only improve corporate attitudes to bribery and corruption.”

Jeremy Sirrell, a former Crown Prosecutor who is a partner and criminal law expert with Palmers, said: “This case illustrates that the SFO will not hesitate to take action against companies that have breached strict rules as set out in the Bribery Act 2010.

“The SFO could have gone even further by prosecuting those responsible but the decision to hand down a DPA allowed the company to make full reparation for its criminal behaviour without the collateral damage of a conviction which could well have put the company out of business and destroyed the jobs of innocent workers.”

Jeremy continued: “The fact that the company involved is an SME serves to show that bribery and corruption rules apply to smaller companies and global organisations alike. The difference is that small businesses do not have teams of in-house lawyers to advise them, which is why it is so important for SME owners to have a close, ongoing working relationship with a law firm, so that they can seek timely advice. Often a phone call is all that is needed to check that a particular deal or corporate interaction does not breach Bribery Act rules and, as with all things, prevention is far better than cure.”

For advice on the Bribery Act and companies’ obligations under the legislation please contact us.