Four men have been convicted of conspiring to corruptly obtain payments by supplying confidential information about a series of high-value engineering projects in the oil and gas engineering industry.

According to a press release from the Serious Fraud Office dated 25th January 2012, the fraud amounted to around £70 million. The contracts affected were for engineering and procurement projects based in Iran, Egypt, Sakhalin Island (Russia), Singapore and Abu Dhabi, over the period 2001 to 2009.

The case, named Operation Navigator, was heard at Southwark Crown Court. The convicted defendants are

  • Andrew Rybak (d.o.b. 28/03/56) of Newbury, Berkshire
  • Ronald Saunders (d.o.b. 01/02/47) of Hook, Hampshire
  • Philip Hammond (d.o.b. 11/06/54) of Brussels, Belgium
  • Barry Smith (d.o.b. 19/04/40) of Hindhead, Hampshire

In summary, according to the SFO, the confidential information supplied to bidders was held by companies acting as procurement agents for the projects. It is an industry where individuals who work for such companies often do so on a short term basis. Crucially, the defendants had access to inside information which they passed on to targeted bidding companies who either made, or agreed to make, corrupt payments for the information. Disguised as “consultancy services”, the illicit payments were shared out amongst the co-conspirators.

The SFO reports in a 31st January press release that the convicted defendants received sentences respectively of:

  • Rybak –  Five years’ imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently
  • Saunders -. Three years and six months’ imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently, 
  • Hammond – Three years’ imprisonment on each count to be served concurrently.
  • Smith – Twelve months’ imprisonment, suspended for a period of 18 months and 300 hours of unpaid work.   

In addition Rybak and Hammond were also disqualified from acting as company directors for a period of ten years. 

Confiscation actions are to be undertaken against the first three defendants. Commenting on the sentences, SFO Director Richard Alderman said:

“Demanding backhanders in exchange for confidential and advantageous information saps business and is completely unacceptable to society.  Hopefully these sentences will ring out the message loud and clear that the criminal justice system will do all it can to combat wrong-doing like this.” 

This case, and the sentencing of the defendants, is further proof that the British authorities are ramping up their enforcement of anticorruption laws and the sentencing of so-called white collar criminals. As the offences were committed prior to 1st July 2011, the case was tried under the old legislation which existed prior to the coming into force of the new Bribery Act.