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  • Directors Plead Guilty in U.K. to Angola Bribe Scheme

    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.

    UK Serious Fraud Office F.H. Bertling Ltd.

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  • 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.”

    UK Serious Fraud Office DOJ FCPA

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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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  • 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.

    FCPA Enforcement Action UK Prevention of Corruption Act UK Serious Fraud Office

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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 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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