SFO’s First Prosecution Under UK Bribery Act – 27 September 2013
The first defendants to be prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) under the UK?Bribery Act appeared before Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday (September 23). The SFO had charged the four men connected to Sustainable AgroEnergy with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to furnish false information in relation to the sale of biofuel investment products to UK investors between April 2011 and February 2012.
The business’ former Chief Executive, its former Director and Chief Commercial Officer, will return to court on 7 October for the hearing, along with an independent financial adviser with links to Sustainable AgroEnergy and Fung Fong Wong, its former financial controller. The latter three were also charged with “offences of making and accepting a financial advantage” contrary to the Bribery Act. The Crown Prosecution Service has prosecuted other individuals under the 2010 Act, which came into force in July 2011, but this is the first time the SFO has brought charges.
Although this is the first time the SFO has prosecuted, the Bribery Act has significant teeth; section 11 of the Act has introduced a potentially unlimited fine for firms found guilty in a criminal court and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for individuals found guilty of serous bribery offences.
Firms accused of bribery therefore need to contact a firm of forensic accountants immediately, as they can quantify what the likely penalties would be if the worst comes to the worst. Once the forensic accountants have come up with an idea of what sort of penalties might be imposed, the clients and their lawyers can then develop their strategies.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 27 September 2013
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