Following in the footsteps of the US Department of Justice, the SFO has made no secret of its intention to prosecute senior executives in relation to corruption offences and the trend continued to gain momentum in February as three more executives were added to the SFO’s tally.

On 23 February 2011 the Southwark Crown Court sentenced two Mabey & Johnson executives, Charles Forsyth and David Mabey, to imprisonment after they were found guilty of bribing Iraqi Government officials in order to secure a contract for the supply of 13 modular bridges in 2001/02 in breach of United Nations sanctions.  A third executive, Richard Gledhill, who had pleaded guilty to sanctions offences at an earlier hearing and given evidence for the prosecution, was also sentenced to imprisonment.

As the former Sales Manager, Gledhill had negotiated the contract with the Iraqi Government and sought Forsyth and Mabey’s approval for the payment of a 10% kickback to secure the contract, which was paid through a local representative.

Forsyth was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £75,000.  Mabey was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £125,000.  Both were disqualified from acting as company directors for five years. 

Gledhill was also sentenced to 8 months imprisonment, which was suspended for two years.

As quoted in the SFO’s press release, SFO Director Richard Alderman said: “This shows that the SFO is determined to go after senior corporate executives who break the law. I am pleased with the result. It sends out a very strong message from the courts on this type of offending.”

Will more executives be joining Messrs Forsyth and Mabey to be held at Her Majesty’s pleasure once the Bribery Act comes into force?  The new Section 14 offence of consenting to or conniving in an offence by the company will make prosecution of senior executives much more straightforward for the SFO.   However, with the SFO having no power to determine sentencing, it remains up to the Court whether HM will need to make up more beds.