The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has obtained confiscation orders in the first Bribery Act 2010 prosecution. Gary West, James Whale and Stuart Stone were convicted on 5 December 2014 of fraud and bribery offences. The SFO investigation focused on three companies: Sustainable Growth Group (“SGG”); and it’s two subsidiary companies Sustainable AgroEnergy plc (“SAE”) and Sustainable Wealth (UK) Investments Ltd (“SWI”).
The companies were involved in the selling and promotion of SAE investment products sold predominantly to UK investors via self-invested pension plans (SIPPs). Investors were deliberately misled to believe that SAE owned land in Cambodia where there were “green biofuel” Joatropha tree plantations and that there was an insurance policy in place to protect them if the crops failed. During sentencing, HHJ Beddoe described the fraud as a “thickening quagmire of dishonesty… there were more than 250 victims of relatively modest means some of whom had lost all of their life savings and their homes”.
At a hearing on 27-28 July 2016, the judge ordered that compensation should be paid out of the confiscation amounts.
In the original prosecution, James Whale and Gary West were both convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation contrary to s1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and fraudulent trading, contrary to s393 of the Companies Act 2006. Gary West and Stuart Stone were convicted of conspiracy to furnish false information contrary to s1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. Stuart Stone was convicted of two counts of bribery contrary to s1(1) and (2) of the Bribery Act 2010 the same on which, Gary West was acquitted. Gary West was convicted of two counts of bribery contrary to s2(1) and (2) of the Bribery Act 2010.
Gary West was sentenced to a total of 13 years’ imprisonment and disqualified from acting as a Director for 15 years. At the hearing on the 27-28 July 2016, he was ordered to pay a £52,805 confiscation order.
James Whale was sentenced to a total of 9 years’ imprisonment and disqualified from acting as a Director for 15 years. He was ordered to pay a £172,952.43 confiscation order.
Stuart Stone was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment and disqualified from acting as a Director for 10 years. He was ordered to pay £1,141.680.
The purpose of confiscation proceedings is to deprive a suspected or convicted offender of the proceeds of their criminal conduct. The overall aim is to stop the commission of future offences and to reduce profits available to fund further criminal enterprises. Confiscation Orders will only be considered where:
- it has been established that the offender has a criminal lifestyle; and
- there is a sum to be recovered from the person in question.