Subscribe to our FinCrimes Update for news about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related prosecutions and enforcement actions.
According to the U.K Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the former CEO and CFO of Afren, Plc., an oil and gas exploration and production company, were sentenced in the UK on October 29 for their parts in a kickback scheme in Nigeria. The former CEO was sentenced to up to six years in prison, and the CFO to up to five years. The executives, Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah, were found to have recommended that Afren enter a $300 million deal with an oil field partner in Nigeria without telling the company’s Board that they would personally receive 15% of the deal’s value from the partner. They then laundered more than $45 million, using some of the proceeds to buy luxury Caribbean real estate. The SFO thanked the U.S. DOJ for its assistance with the investigation.
In what the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is calling a first, a £4.4 million recovery from a corruption case will be returned overseas. The SFO prevailed in a trial before the UK High Court and recovered the money from Chadian diplomats, including the wife of the former Deputy Chief of the Chadian Embassy to the United States who was received the money in the form of discounted shares of Canadian oil company Griffiths Energy International, Inc. Griffiths also paid “consultancy fees” to diplomats through a front company called “Chad Oil” set up five days before the agreements with the diplomats. In exchange for the payments, Griffiths received exclusive development rights in Chad.
The case has continued for some time—Griffiths paid a C$10 million criminal fine in Canada in 2013. After Griffiths was taken over by a UK corporation, the U.S. DOJ filed an In Rem. complaint and later requested SFO assistance.
This recovery will be “transferred to the Department for International Development who will identify key projects to invest in that will benefit the poorest in Chad.”
On January 18, the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) confirmed the opening of an investigation of Chemring Group PLC (“Chemring”) and its subsidiary, Chemring Technology Solutions Limited (“CTSL”) into alleged bribery, corruption, and money laundering. Chemring, a UK-based company that designs and makes products in the aerospace and defense industries, stated that the investigation followed a voluntary report from CTSL relating to “two specific historic contracts.” According to Chemring, the first of these contracts was awarded before the company took over the business group being investigated, while the second contract occurred after the acquisition. Chemring stated that the company will fully cooperate with the SFO’s investigation and provide further updates.
On November 29, Dutch oilfield company SBM Offshore entered into a three year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ to settle allegations that SBM paid bribes to secure contracts in various countries around the world. Under the agreement, SBM agreed to pay a total of $238 million, including a $500,000 criminal fine and forfeiture of $13.2 million. The next day, the UK Serious Fraud Office announced that two former SBM executives had been charged with conspiracy to make corrupt payments in connection with government contracts in Iraq between 2005 and 2011.
Earlier this month, two different former SBM executives pleaded guilty in US federal court to paying bribes to government officials in Brazil, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea. Click here for FCPA Scorecard’s prior coverage of these guilty pleas. SBM has been involved in a sprawling bribery investigation involving enforcement officials in the United States, the UK, Brazil and the Netherlands. The DOJ closed its investigation in 2014 before reopening it in February of 2016. Click here to view previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the SBM investigation.
The company’s deferred prosecution agreement states that SBM did not receive voluntary disclosure credit even though it voluntarily disclosed the conduct to the DOJ, because the disclosure was untimely as it took place “approximately one year” after the company learned of the information. It also states that SBM received full cooperation credit because it conducted a “thorough internal investigation, [made] regular factual presentations” to the DOJ, “voluntarily [made] foreign-based employees available for interviews in the United States, [produced] documents to the United States from foreign countries” and expedited parts of the internal investigation. The deferred prosecution agreement goes on to detail the remedial measures that SBM has taken to improve its compliance function, which included hiring a third party to design and implement a new compliance program, reduce the number of third party agents engaged by the company, and terminate relationships with questionable third parties. It goes on to explain that all of these factors weighed in the DOJ’s decision not to seek a guilty plea by the company. This information provides insight into the DOJ’s expectations for receiving disclosure and compliance credit.
On November 7, the DOJ unsealed FCPA charges against five individuals for their alleged participation in a foreign bribery scheme involving Rolls-Royce plc and its U.S. subsidiary (Rolls-Royce). Of the five individuals, one was indicted while the remaining four pleaded guilty for their roles in an alleged scheme to pay bribes to a Kazakhstan official in order to secure a supply contract for a gas pipeline from Kazakhstan to China. The charges and guilty pleas were unsealed in Ohio federal district court.
These charges follow on the heels of the company’s January 2017 settlement with DOJ in which Rolls-Royce agreed to a three-year deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay $170 million to resolve charges that it conspired to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA around the world. As part of the DOJ settlement, Rolls-Royce agreed to continue to cooperate fully with the DOJ’s investigation, including its investigation of individuals. The DOJ settlement comprised just a fraction of the $800 million total penalty Rolls-Royce agreed to pay as part of a global resolution related to the corrupt conduct.
Of the four guilty pleas, three individuals (a former executive of Rolls-Royce, a former employee of Rolls-Royce, and an executive at an international engineering consulting firm) pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The fourth individual (a former senior executive of Rolls-Royce) also pleaded guilty to one count of violating the FCPA in addition to conspiracy. The indicted individual, a former CEO of a Rolls-Royce intermediary, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and seven counts of violating the FCPA, along with various money laundering charges.
The DOJ’s announcement noted the “significant cooperation and assistance” from the UK SFO and Brazil law enforcement. This continues the increased trend of DOJ receiving and then highlighting cooperation efforts by its international counterparts.
On September 15, F.H. Bertling Ltd., 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 F.H. Bertling was seeking to obtain freight forwarding services contracts with the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, between January 2005 and December 2006.
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 a Global Bank and Four Former Executives in Qatar Capital Raising Matter
On Tuesday, June 20, the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) announced charges against a global 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 Qatar Holding LLC and Challenger Universal Ltd 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 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 F.H. Bertling North Sea Investigation
The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has reportedly charged the former chief commercial officer of F.H. Bertling Ltd. with two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments to assist F.H. Bertling 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 F.H. Bertling 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 F.H. Bertling’s freight forwarding business operations and contracts in Angola.
On Thursday, March 16, 2017, Airbus Group SE (Airbus) 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). Airbus, an aircraft manufacturer based in Toulouse, France, stated that the investigations into the use of third party agents by Airbus’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.
- Tina Tchen to deliver keynote address at the American Bar Association Professional Success Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon and Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Enforcement and litigation trends" at the American Bankers Association General Counsel Meeting
- Andrea K. Mitchell to discuss "Developments in fair lending law" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Summit on Diversity and Inclusion
- David S. Krakoff to discuss "The DOJ corporate enforcement policy and your disclosure calculus one year in: Are companies benefitting?" at the American Conference Institute International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
- Moorari K. Shah to discuss "Legal & regulatory issues" at the Opal Group Marketplace Lending & Alternative Financing Summit
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Hot topics in consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "New CDD Rule: Pitfalls in compliance" at the American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Anti-money laundering/OFAC compliance" at the Institute of International Bankers U.S. Regulatory/Compliance Orientation Program