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  • 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.”

    SEC UK Serious Fraud Office Fraud Qatar Holding Challenger Universal

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  • French Financial Crimes Investigator Joins SFO Criminal Investigation of Airbus

    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.

    Airbus Group SE UK SFO UK Serious Fraud Office France Bribery

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  • SFO Announces Criminal Investigation of Airbus

    On August 8, 2016, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced that it is conducting an investigation of aircraft manufacturer Airbus.  The SFO stated that the investigation centers on the use of third party consultants.  In April 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.K. Export Finance Industry had cut off export credit financing to the company while it conducted a fraud investigation also related to the use of third party overseas agents and referred the matter to the SFO.  The SFO’s brief announcement asked for individuals with information to contact the agency through its confidential reporting system.

    UK Serious Fraud Office Airbus

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  • Printing Company Fined £2.2 Million in United Kingdom for Africa Bribes

    On January 8, the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office announced that Smith and Ouzman Ltd, a printing company specializing in official documents such as election ballots, was ordered to pay penalties totaling £2.2 million following its 2014 conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.  The SFO’s announcement regarding the sentencing stated that its investigation began in 2010 and centered on £395,074 in corrupt payments made to foreign officials in Kenya and Mauritania.  Two of the company’s former employees, also convicted in connection with the same investigation, were ordered to pay penalties totaling over £20,000.

    UK Serious Fraud Office

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  • Sweett Group Admits to Middle East Bribery

    On December 2, 2015 the Sweett Group 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 Sweett Group, 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 Sweett Group’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.

    UK UK Bribery Act UK Serious Fraud Office SFO Sweett Group

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  • UK Serious Fraud Office Issues First Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Standard Bank

    On November 30, 2015 the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), working with the DOJ and SEC, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with Standard Bank 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, Standard Bank has 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 Standard Bank’s continued cooperation with authorities and the implementation of certain recommendations from its independent compliance consultants.

    In addition to the DPA, Standard Bank agreed to pay $4.2 million to the SEC to settle charges related to the failure to disclose the underlying bribe payments in the bank’s offering documents and statements to potential investors.  In light of Standard Bank’s cooperation with the SFO and the DPA, the DOJ reportedly closed its own investigation without bringing independent charges.

    Notably, in one of the first examples of the SEC implementing its plan to make more defendants admit to the allegations against them as part of resolutions, Standard Bank agreed to the facts underlying the SEC charges.

    DOJ SEC UK UK Bribery Act UK Serious Fraud Office SFO DPA Standard Bank

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  • 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 UK Serious Fraud Office Corruption Nigeria

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  • Additional Corruption Charges Brought in UK Against Alstom Subsidiary and Employee

    Continuing the steady drumbeat of corruption allegations against Alstom SA, a French power and transportation company, on April 16 new bribery charges were brought by the UK Serious Fraud Office against a company and employee affiliated with Alstom.  These latest charges related to alleged bribery in Hungary related to a Budapest Metro contract for trains.  The charges are in addition to 2014 charges in the UK against the same Alstom subsidiary and other former employees related to corruption in India, Poland, and Tunisia, and separately, according to news reports, related to alleged bribes in Lithuania.

    Alstom also pleaded guilty last year in the US to allegations of bribery in yet a different set of countries, and agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty for FCPA violations ever to the DOJ.  Several Alstom employees in the US have either pleaded guilty or are under indictment.

    Alstom SA UK Serious Fraud Office Bribery Hungary

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  • Four Sentenced in United Kingdom for Role in Innospec Matter

    On August 4, 2014, the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office announced that four former executives of Innospec Inc. (formerly known as Associated Octel Corp.) were sentenced following a long-running investigation related to conduct in in Indonesia and Iraq.  Three of the four were sentenced to prison terms, with a former chief executive receiving four years in prison after being convicted at a jury trial earlier this year.  A former regional sales director received an 18 month sentence following a conviction at trial, and another former CEO was sentenced to two years following a guilty plea.  The fourth individual, a former business unit director, received a suspended 16-month sentence following a guilty plea.

    The sentencing of these former executives comes after Innospec pled guilty in 2010 to FCPA and anti-bribery criminal charges brought by DOJ and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, and after Innospec settled civil charges brought by the SEC.  The charges alleged that Innospec, a global specialty chemicals company, had bribed Indonesian and Iraqi government officials to win sales of a gasoline additive after environmental legislation in the US and abroad led to a decline in sales of that additive.  As part of the settlement, Innospec paid U.S. authorities $27.5 million, and paid UK authorities $12.7 million.  Two of the four individuals sentenced in the UK had also previously settled with the SEC over civil FCPA charges.

    DOJ SEC Score Card Indonesia UK Serious Fraud Office UK SFO Innospec Iraq

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