Executive Sentenced for Destroying Bribery and Corruption Evidence
07 February 2017
Richard Kingston, formerly of the AIM listed construction group, Sweett Group Plc, was found guilty by a jury on 21 December 2016 of two statutory offences for the destruction of evidence relating to a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) bribery and corruption investigation. Richard Kingston, who was the managing director of Middle East operations for the group, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently.
He was convicted of concealing, destroying or otherwise disposing of two mobile telephones, knowing or suspecting that the data stored on those phones would be relevant to the SFO’s inquiries.
He was first arrested in December 2014 as part of an SFO investigation into suspected bribery offences into the group’s operations in the Middle East. In February 2016, the group was ordered to pay £2.25m after pleading guilty to failing to prevent acts of bribery.
As well as highlighting the tough approach of the SFO to tackling bribery and corruption; it serves as a reminder to commercial organisations to assess whether they have taken appropriate steps to prevent bribery within their organisation. The Bribery Act 2010 includes a controversial offence of failure of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery. This offence means that where an employee or agent is involved in committing a bribery offence, the company will be held criminally responsible unless it can show that it took reasonable steps to ensure adequate procedures were in place to prevent bribery from occurring.
In the case against the Sweett Group, there was no evidence that senior management at group level were aware of the offences prior to it being identified during its own internal investigations but the simple failure to have adequate procedures in place resulted in a criminal conviction.
We regularly advise clients on their statutory obligations on bribery and corruption and work with them to design and implement compliance procedures and training programmes on a case by case basis.