The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has achieved its first successful convictions under the Bribery Act. This long awaited success came after an investigation into the activities of Sustainable Growth Group ('SGG'), including subsidiary companies Sustainable AgroEnergy plc ('SAE') and Sustainable Wealth Investments Ltd ('SW') that uncovered fraud to the tune of £23m in conjunction with a biofuel investment scam.
Gary Lloyd West, former Chief Commercial Officer of SAE was sentenced to 13 years in prison and disqualified as a director for 15 years after being found guilty of two Bribery Act offences, fraudulent trading and conspiracy to furnish false information.
Stuart John Stone, an agent for the company, was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from holding a directorship for 10 years having been convicted of two Bribery Act offences and of conspiracy to provide false information. Gary West received bribes for his part in producing false invoices, which Stuart Stone submitted, for over £3 million which allowed Mr Stone to charge commission rates of 65% on investor's funds.
A third director, James Brunel Whale, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of SGG, was sentenced to nine years in prison and disqualified as a director for 15 years after being found guilty of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
David Green, director of the SFO, said of the trio, 'these three individuals preyed on investors, many of whom were duped into investing life savings and pension funds. As a result, many lost life-changing amounts of money.'
The new legislation updated the UK's rather outdated bribery and corruption legislation, making it easier for the SFO to prosecute individuals and companies for offences committed anywhere in the world provided a link to the UK has been established.