In May 2015 three former employees of Swift Technical Energy Solutions Ltd – a Nigerian subsidiary of the Swift Group of companies that supplies manpower to the global oil and gas industry – were found not guilty in a trial on corruption charges relating to payments that were allegedly made to Nigerian officials in connection with Swift's tax affairs.(1) The payments – alleged to have totalled £180,000 – had been made to agents of the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue and the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue in 2008 and 2009 (before the enactment of the UK Bribery Act 2010) in order to avoid, reduce or delay paying taxes owed in Nigeria.(2)
Bharat Sodha (a former Swift international tax manager) was acquitted of two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments; Nidhi Vyas (a former Swift financial controller) was acquitted of two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments; and Trevor Bruce (a former Swift area director for Nigeria) was acquitted of one count of conspiracy to make corrupt payments, while the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the other count. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) stated that it did not intend to seek a retrial on the one undecided count and a verdict of not guilty was entered. A fourth defendant, former chief financial officer Paul Jacobs, did not stand trial due to ill health. All four individuals are UK nationals.(3)
The SFO's charges against these defendants were announced back in December 2012, following a two-year investigation by the SFO and City of London Police. According to the SFO, Swift cooperated with the SFO's investigation by providing documents and making staff available for interviews. Charges were not brought against the company itself.(4)
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(1) SFO press release, "Defendants acquitted in Nigerian corruption trial" (June 2 2015), available at www.sfo.gov.uk/press-room/latest-press-releases/press-releases-2015/defendants-acquitted-in-nigerian-corruption-trial.aspx.
(2) SFO press release, "Four charged in Nigerian corruption investigation" (December 17 2012), available at www.sfo.gov.uk/press-room/latest-press-releases/press-releases-2012/four-charged-in-nigerian-corruption-investigation.aspx.
(3) Supra note 1.
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