Executives jailed for bribes

Posted: 26th September 2014

CashAny company engaged in international trade should take note of a case in which two senior executives were jailed for their involvement in bribing corrupt foreign officials in an attempt to protect an export market worth $170 million.

The two men worked for a company which exported a fuel additive to a south-east Asian country. The additive had been largely phased out in Europe and America due to environmental concerns but its highly lucrative export to other countries had formed an important part of the company’s business.

An investigation was launched after it emerged that the company, through agents, had paid ‘sweeteners’ to various public officials and others involved in the country’s state-owned oil company. The bribes were paid under a number of euphemisms, including ‘extraordinary costs’ and ‘local promotional activities’.

The company subsequently pleaded guilty to corrupting public officials, contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977, and was fined the equivalent of $12.7 million. Its sales and marketing director admitted three corruption offences after entering into a plea agreement with the Serious Fraud Office and turning Queen’s evidence.

On the basis of his testimony, the company’s CEO and one of its senior salesmen were convicted of conspiracy to corrupt following a 15-day trial. The former received a four-year prison sentence and the latter an 18-month term. The facts of the case emerged as the Court of Appeal rejected both men’s challenges to their convictions. The CEO’s sentence was, however, reduced to three years.