Bribery Act & Proceeds of Crime - Written by on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 0:11 - 0 Comments

“It is going to happen…” – SFO position hardens as it issues dawn raid threat over bribery

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The Director of the SFO has acknowledged that bringing a case under the Bribery Act is a top priority for the SFO and that organisations may regret failing to engage with the SFO.

Speaking recently he said:

“I want to see the SFO identify cases as quickly as we can. Once we do that we will make an assessment of what we are finding.”

Mr. Alderman spoke of the likely approaches of the SFO when dealing with suspected bribery and revealed that those who fail to take advantage of the SFO carrot risk receiving the SFO stick:

“It may be that the company is asked to come and provide us with an explanation of what it has been doing. Alternatively, the first that the corporation knows about the SFO’s interest is when we arrive early in the morning equipped with search warrants and arrest powers.

I need hardly say that this is really bad news for corporations. It is going to happen. I will though have little sympathy for corporations that find themselves in that position. They have had plenty of opportunity to get it right and indeed to come and talk to us about problems if they have identified that there are issues that they need to rectify. Corporations that do not come and talk to us about these issues are likely to be regarded by us as corporations that want to continue to use corruption for as long as they can in order to obtain advantages for themselves and to disadvantage their competitors. We cannot permit this. I want to be able to support gold standard corporations in those circumstances by taking vigorous enforcement action in respect of those who will not abide by the law.”

All eyes are on the SFO.  Based on comments made in the last few days it appears the SFO is already considering post Bribery Act investigations.  Whether these turn into a full blown investigation or as yet unknown instance(s) form the subject of the SFO’s first Bribery Act investigations remains to be seen.

The reference in the recent speech to the opportunity to speak to the SFO about problems they may have uncovered reveal the other side of that particular coin.  Namely, that in the eyes of the SFO:

Corporations that do not come and talk to us about these issues are likely to be regarded by us as corporations that want to continue to use corruption for as long as they can in order to obtain advantages for themselves and to disadvantage their competitors.”

In our view, and as we described some time ago there is still a window of opportunity to speak to the SFO about matters which may have been uncovered as part of the Adequate Procedures review.  In such circumstances there is, in our view, a good prospect of a more favourable hearing from the SFO – with either no action, or a Civil Settlement achievable which would avoid the uncertainties which flow from prosecution.

However, one thing is for sure, time is running out.

Image © Crown Copyright 2011

 

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