It has been a successful month for the SFO which landed a prosecution and conviction of Peter Chapman, former manager of Securency PTY Ltd (“Securency”), for making corrupt payments to a foreign official contrary to the UK’s Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 (the “Act”).
The conduct of Mr Chapman came to light following referrals from the Reserve Bank of Australia (“RBA”) and Securency to the Australian Federal Police in May 2009 that Securency had, via agents, paid bribes to foreign government officials in order to secure contracts with certain governments in Asia and Africa for the printing of banknotes. Securency was, at that time, jointly owned by RBA and a UK manufacturing firm, Innovia Films Ltd.
These referrals sparked an investigation by the Australian Federal Police into the activities of the employees and agents of Securency. The SFO, not far behind, announced it was also investigating Securency in October 2010. The investigation revealed that Mr Chapman had made corrupt payments to a Nigerian official to the value of £143,000.
Mr Chapman was extradited to the UK from Brazil by the SFO, and on 5 May 2016 he was charged with six counts of making corrupt payments to a foreign official contrary to the Act.
Mr Chapman was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment. However, in light of the length of time Mr Chapman had already served in custody while on remand in both the UK and Brazil (prior to his extradition), Mr Chapman will serve the remainder of his sentence on licence. Although he will not therefore serve any additional time in prison, Mr Chapman must still face a further confiscation hearing on 19 January 2017 to deal with confiscation of his “benefit” as a result of his conviction.
Mr Chapman’s conviction is significant for several reasons. First, it is a paradigm example of the kind of global corporate corruption referred to by HHJ Grieve in his judgment when he said that corruption remains “a very serious global problem”. EY’s recent Global Fraud Survey found that 39% of participating executives were of the view that bribery and corruption happen widely in their countries. Second, it is worth noting that this is a conviction under the “old” bribery act, which has often been criticised as being difficult to prosecute. However if there was any difficulty here, it lay in the facts, not the law.
With some understatement, David Green described this as a “long, detailed and complex prosecution”. Most tellingly, the SFO’s somewhat Oscar-worthy press release went on to thank the Australian Federal Police the National Crime Agency (“NCA”), the Metropolitan Police, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Central Authority of Nigeria and authorities in Brazil, the Seychelles, South Africa, Canada and Spain. More than anything else, this is what brought this conviction home (even though it took nearly seven years): cooperation between agencies, near and far.
At the Anti-Corruption Summit held this month (as referred to by Judge Grieve in this case) participating countries, including Nigeria, committed to continuing to work together to share information and resources in order to prevent corruption. The UK intends to lead the way on this front with a number of new initiatives, including the establishment of an International Anti-Corruption Centre to be managed by the NCA. It will be interesting to see whether the current political and global momentum can be maintained to yield further successes for the SFO and the NCA in the global fight against corruption.