Monday 30 November 2015 6:23 pm

Judge approves Britain's first ever deferred prosecution agreement in Serious Fraud Office bribery case involving Tanzanian division of ICBC Standard Bank

Britain’s first deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) has been approved today in a bribery case involving ICBC Standard Bank and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

A DPA is a type of plea deal where legal proceedings against a company are suspended in return for other conditions, such as agreeing to pay a fine.

The London division of Standard Bank, as it was known then, has admitted to failing to prevent the bribery of Tanzanian officials, which saw its Tanzanian unit, Stanbic Bank Tanzania, raise $600m (£399m) for the government and generate transaction fees of $8.4m.

The bank will now pay penalties of $32.2m, including a fine of $16.8m to be paid to the SFO and a fine of $6m to be paid to the Tanzanian government.

“This landmark DPA will serve as a template for future agreements,” said David Green, director of the SFO. “The judgment from Lord Justice Leveson provides very helpful guidance to those advising corporates. It also endorses the SFO's contention that the DPA in this case was in the interests of justice and its terms fair, reasonable and proportionate. I applaud Standard Bank for their frankness with the SFO and their prompt and early engagement with us."

Standard Bank was the the London branch of South Africa's Standard Bank Group and was purchased by China's ICBC earlier this year. Stanbic Bank Tanzania is not owned by ICBC Standard Bank.

Commenting on the approval of the first DPA in the UK, Stephen Parkinson, head of the criminal litigation team at Kingsley Napley, said: “This was a safe case for the SFO to bring to court as the first DPA. The offence involved a single transaction rather than widespread criminality. It was reported to the SFO by the bank as soon as it was discovered. The bank then co-operated fully in the subsequent investigation. It has now overhauled its compliance processes and is a substantially different organisation to the one that committed the offence.”

Parkinson continued: “This case is bound to encourage other companies to come forward and there is no doubt that this is the first of many DPAs in the future.”

Meanwhile, Alison Geary senior associate in the white collar crime practice at law firm WilmerHale remarked: “Despite talk of a second DPA following closely behind it is unlikely that this is the start of any great avalanche. The government has recently decided not extend this Bribery Act offence and reform the law on corporate criminal liability in relation to other corporate offences. This means the number of companies at threat of prosecution, and therefore keen to secure a DPA, is unlikely to increase at any great pace in coming years.”