First charges brought under UK Bribery Act

Elizabeth Fournier
THE UK’S fraud squad has brought its first charges under the Bribery Act since it was introduced in 2011, charging four individuals over an alleged conspiracy to commit a £23m fraud.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charged four men connected to Sustainable AgroEnergy with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to furnish false information, in relation to the marketing and sales of biofuel investment products to UK investors.

Sustainable AgroEnergy is a subsidiary of Sustainable Growth Group, which was placed into administration in March last year.

James Brunel Whale, 38, the former chief executive of the company, and Gary Lloyd West, 58, its former director and chief commercial officer, will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 23 September along with Stuart John Stone, 28, an independent financial adviser with links to Sustainable AgroEnergy and Fung Fong Wong, its former financial controller.

West, Stone and Wong were also charged with “offences of making and accepting a financial advantage” contrary to the Bribery Act.

SFO boss David Green said last month his team currently has two live investigations into companies suspected of breaching the Act.

“Many had been expecting the first charge by the SFO to be against a company rather than individuals,” said Matthew Getz, a lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton. “But such cases are even more complex, so we should not be surprised that individuals are the first in the dock.”