First charges under the UK Bribery Act

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has secured its first charges under the UK Bribery Act. The SFO’s criminal investigation revealed Gary West, 52, James Whale 38, and Stuart Stone, 28, of Sustainable AgroEnergy (‘SAE’) masterminded a 23 million pound biofuel investment scam.

The three men falsely and deliberately misled investors between 2011 and 2012 into thinking that SAE owned property in Cambodia. Investors were told Jatropha trees, once considered a promising plant in the quest for oil, were planted on the land and that an insurance policy in place protected the investors from loss in case the crops failed.

David Green, Director of the SFO, was reported as saying, “These three individuals preyed on investors, many of whom were duped into investing life savings and pension funds”.

While Whale was charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and fraudulent trading, West and Stone were convicted of bribery offences, in addition to other charges such as conspiracy to furnish false information, making it the first time the SFO secured convictions under UK’s Bribery Act. Specifically, West and Stone were both found guilty of offences of bribing another person and being bribed under the legislation.

London’s Southwark Crown Court sentenced West, Whale and Stone to prison for 13, 9 and 6 years respectively.

The UK Bribery Act is considered one of the world’s toughest laws against bribery and corruption. Individuals can face up to 10 years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine and have their assets confiscated. The legislation also grants the SFO with extraterritorial jurisdiction that is the power to prosecute any company or individual, even if the alleged bribery took place outside of the UK, provided there is still a sufficient link to the UK.

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Source: Yahoo News UK and the Serious Fraud Office