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Are SFO Bribery Act Policies Likely to Change?

Siobhain Egan has written a blog article regarding possible changes to SFO’s bribery and corruption guidance/policy. Read the article here.

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New SFO Guidance on Bribery Act 2010 – by Siobhain Egan

The SFO’s new Director now appears to be taking a slightly different approach to that of his predecessor when focusing upon the controversial issues of self-reporting, hospitality, and facilitation payments.

Self-reporting still remains of crucial importance (and therefore the need for companies to have comprehensive up-to-date compliance systems in place), however the SFO appear to be moving slightly away from the Deferred Prosecution Agreement/civil settlement so favoured by Richard Alderman and the present government. The latter has just finished consulting upon DPAs.

The SFO have stated that, “The revised policies make it clear that there will be no presumption in favour of civil settlements in any circumstances.” One wonders how much of this is ‘grandstanding’.

We know that the SFO are working under a much-reduced budget, in fact only £2 million has been allocated to bribery and corruption, so there does not appear to be much in the pot to fund large, long-running, in-depth investigations and prosecutions. That is, unless they pursue companies using the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which has a reverse burden of proof or civil asset recovery. Essentially companies and individuals would have to prove that the payments in question were legitimate.

Facilitation payments have always been a ‘bone of contention’ between the US and UK prosecuting authorities. The SFO now say that they will prosecute if there are, for example, large/repeated payments but they are no more definitive than that.

Very little is said about hospitality, other than that they recognise that hospitality is part of business culture but that bribes can be dressed up as hospitality.

So what does this mean for companies? As stated earlier, ensure that you have ‘gold plated’ compliance systems in place and, if you are facing a SFO prosecution, it is likely to lead to a POCA investigation and you should ensure that you instruct specialist forensic accountants and solicitors when preparing your defence.

Contact Jeffrey Lewis or Siobhain Egan

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Environment Agency Arrests Ten from Avonmouth Company

It seems that one of the Environment Agency’s largest investigations has resulted in the arrest of ten individuals suspected of the illegal treatment and dumping of allegedly hazardous waste e.g. heavy metals and asbestos.

These are complex and difficult allegations to defend, particularly bearing in mind the potential sentences (imprisonment/huge fines). Some of them may be strict liability offences and they will nearly always involve the instruction of experts to assess liability, damage and defence.

Environmental crime appears to be on the increase; there has been a sharp spike in the illegal dumping of tyres and illegal waste disposed of in water. In times of economic recession waste disposal/water companies etc may be tempted to cut corners.

If you are being investigated or prosecuted for such allegations contact us immediately. We have been defending these offences for many years, all over the country and at reasonable, flexible rates.

Contact Jeffrey Lewis; Siobhain Egan; Miles Herman; Keith Wood.

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New Offshore Account Offensive by HMRC – by Siobhain Egan

HM Revenue & Customs have recently announced that they have arrested and interviewed eight individuals under caution in relation to offshore accounts. This is as a result of the formation of an elite specialist investigative sub-directorate of HMRC who will aggressively pursue the so-called ‘abuse’ of offshore accounts.

Thanks to recent international cooperation from foreign counterparts, the Revenue have managed to identify some 500,000 individuals who hold such offshore accounts. They have vowed to prosecute at least nine hundred people per year for tax fraud. Each of these individuals will receive a letter from HMRC demanding information about the offshore account. Note that they are not specifically pursuing the ‘fabulously wealthy’ who have such accounts, it is anyone who holds an account.

The Revenue have two approaches which they can take: firstly a criminal prosecution which can lead to further allegations relating to money laundering, serious fraud, Proceeds of Crime Act offences, convictions and asset confiscation; or alternatively the civil procedure which is known as Code of Practice 9.

The Revenue really do mean business this time. To face either a criminal prosecution or a civil investigation is time consuming, frightening, and can be very expensive in the long-term. It is important that if either you or your client receives a letter from HMRC you immediately instruct both specialist criminal defence solicitors and specialist tax accountants who are used to dealing with the new full-on and aggressive stance being taken by the Revenue. This is turn can save time, stress, criminal proceedings, civil recovery or criminal asset recovery. It can save money, including penalties and interest.

Many of you will have accounts in the family which have been there for generations and have remained untouched for years. This will not exclude you from the Revenue’s investigations.

At Lewis Nedas Law we have a department which is dedicated to the defence of Inland Revenue investigations and prosecutions. We offer a City standard of service at reasonable and realistic pricing levels. We work with leading tax/criminal defence QCs and tax accountants at different pricing levels. If you require any advice please contact Jeffrey Lewis.

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