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SFO Flexing It Muscle Even Without the Bribery Act

In previous statements (see here for instance) U.K. officials have said that it would be wrong to assume that the U.K. was ignoring bribery issues prior to passage of the Bribery Act.

Case(s) in point – the recent enforcement actions announced by the Serious Fraud Office against MK Kellogg Ltd. and Mabey & Johnson directors.

MK Kellogg Ltd.

Yesterday, the SFO announced (here) that M.W. Kellogg Limited (“MKWL”) has been ordered to pay “just over £7 million [approximately $11.2 million] in recognition of sums it is due to receive which were generated through the criminal activity of third parties.”

This SFO enforcement action has been expected for some time, as noted in this previous post from October 2009.

MKWL was the entity that originally formed the TSKJ consortium the focus of the Bonny Island bribery scandal. See this post for current enforcement statistics as to KBR/Halliburton, Technip, and Snamprogetti / ENI.

MKWL is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of KBR and as noted in this previous post as well as KBR’s release (here) Halliburton has indemnification obligations to KBR in connection with the SFO enforcement action of “55% of such penalties, which is KBR’s beneficial ownership interest in MWKL.”

According to the SFO release, “the SFO recognized that MKWL took no part in the criminal activity that generated the funds” but that the “funds due to MKWL are share dividends payable from profits and revenues generated by contracts obtained through bribery and corruption undertaken by MWKL’s parent company and others.” The SFO release notes that “MWKL was used by the parent company and was not a willing participant in the corruption.”

As noted in the SFO release, the court order against MKWL was pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. What is the Proceeds of Crime Act? See this piece from John Rupp (Covington & Burling).

Richard Alderman, the Director of the SFO, stated in the release: “our goal is to prevent bribery and corruption or remove any of the benefits generated by such activities – this case demonstrates the range of tools we are prepared to use.”

Mabey & Johnson Directors

In July 2009, the SFO brought an enforcement action against Mabey & Johnson Ltd. (a U.K. company that designs and manufacturers steel bridges). The conduct at issue involved allegations (that the company voluntarily disclosed) that it sought to influence decision-makers in public contracts in Jamaica and Ghana between 1993 and 2001. The prosecution also involved breaches of United Nations sanctions in connection with the Iraq Oil for Food program.

It was the first ever prosecution against a U.K. company for overseas corruption. See here and here for the prior post.

On February 10th, the SFO announced (here) that “two former directors … of Mabey & Johnson Ltd. [Charles Forsyth and David Mabey] have been found guilty of inflating the contract price for the supply of steel bridges in order to provide kickbacks to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.”

According to the release, at the time of the offense, Forsyth was the Managing Director of Mabey & Johnson and Mabey was the Sales Director. The release notes that Richard Gledhill, a Sales Manager for contracts in Iraq, previously pleaded guilty. According to the release, all individuals are to be sentenced on February 23rd.

The U.S. has prosecuted numerous companies in connection with Iraqi Oil-For-Food fraud. See here for such allegations in the ABB matter, here for such allegations in the Innospec matter, here for such allegations in the General Electric matter.

However, these prosecutions have generally been corporate only prosecutions with few related enforcement actions against individuals.

In just its single Mabey & Johnson prosecution, the SFO would appear to have prosecuted more individuals than the U.S. has in its approximately 15 Iraqi Oil for Food corporate enforcement actions combined.

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