The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1st July 2011 and replaces all previous legislation on this topic. The Act makes it an offence to offer a bribe, to receive a bribe or to bribe a public official.
Responsibility is placed on all organisations to have an anti-bribery policy and to train their staff on this subject. A breach of this Act can result in a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine and confiscation of assets.
At the end of 2014, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) obtained its first conviction of a large scale bribe when two individuals were found to be in contravention of the UK Bribery Act 2010.
The first offender was the former Chief Commercial Officer of Sustainable AgroEnergy. He was found guilty of two breaches of section 2 of the Bribery Act (the offence of being bribed), these included one count of fraudulent trading and one of conspiracy to furnish false information.
The second offender was a sales agent of an unregulated pension and investment product for a separate company. He was found guilty of two breaches of section 1 of the Act (the offence of offering or giving bribes).
The Chief Commercial Officer has been sentenced to 13 years imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for 15 years. The second sales agent has been sentenced to 6 years imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for 10 years.
The case concerned the promotion and selling of pension investments with Sustainable ArgoEnergy to 250 innocent people, based on “green biofuel” Jatropha tree plantations in Cambodia. The green biofuel products were advertised with huge returns and were sold to UK investors under self-invested pension plans (SIPPs). Sustainable ArgoEnergy told investors that they owned the land in Cambodia on which the trees were planted, but unfortunately this wasn’t true. Sustainable ArgoEnergy also told investors that there was an insurance policy in place to protect investors if the crops failed, but sadly this wasn’t true either and when the crops failed the investors lost their money.
This case is particularly interesting as both the bribe payer and the bribe receiver were prosecuted as provided for under the Bribery Act 2010.