Further to our previous article here, the SFO has now secured a conviction against Glencore on seven counts of international bribery. The successful prosecution makes Glencore the first company to admit to bribing a person under the Bribery Act and is the SFO’s third corporate conviction under these rules.
On 21 June at Southwark Crown Court, the international commodities giant admitted to multiple counts of paying bribes to secure access to oil and generate illicit profit in connection with its oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan. The charges themselves relate to five substantive charges under Section 1 Bribery Act, and two under the corporate failure to prevent bribery offence (section 7). The SFO originally launched its investigation in 2019, exposing that Glencore, through its employees and agents, paid bribes of over $28 million for preferential access to oil, including increased cargoes, valuable grades of oil and preferable dates of delivery.
The investigation can be seen as a successful example of international regulatory cooperation, seeing the SFO work alongside the US Department of Justice and both Dutch and Swiss prosecutors on its investigation.
Anti-corruption group Spotlight on Corruption stated that it will now be important for the court to "impose a fine that reflects the staggering scale and seriousness of this corporate criminality”, in order to ensure companies like Glencore do not simply write off any fines as "the cost of doing business". There have also been separate calls to bring forward prosecutions against "the senior executives who gave their backing to this bribery scheme" to help deter similar bribery schemes from happening in the future.
Sentencing will take place in November of this year.
Meanwhile, earlier this month the UK's Attorney General stated that the investigation by High Court judge David Calvert-Smith into the SFO's alleged mishandling of the Unaoil case has been extended to late June. The review is intended to look at what went wrong in the Unaoil case and what changes are needed at the SFO to help ensure that the failings identified in the judgment cannot happen again, especially in relation to disclosure and contact with third-parties.