Colette Kelly Partner, Criminal and Regulatory Solicitor
Serious Fraud Office awards bribery compensation for Nigerian infrastructure
On 21 February 2022, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced that a UK-Nigeria Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) had been signed. The MOU sets out the pathway for the transfer of £210,610 compensation obtained by the SFO through the Amec Foster Wheeler Limited (Amec) Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) to the people of Nigeria.
We previously reported on the DPA entered into between the SFO and Amec relating to the use of corrupt agents in the oil and gas sector. The timing of the agreement was particularly significant, as it came on the tenth anniversary of the Bribery Act 2010 and was the tenth DPA entered into by the SFO. As part of the DPA, we reported that Amec had agreed to pay a financial penalty to authorities in the UK, US and Brazil, including compensation to the people of Nigeria.
The compensation payment announced will provide suitable recompense to the people of Nigeria in relation to what Lord Justice Edis determined to be a “direct” loss tax revenue, which was evaded by the use of bribes paid by Amec to Nigerian officials.
The funds shall be used by the Federal Government of Nigeria exclusively for financing three infrastructure projects, namely: (i) Lagos to Ibadan Expressway; (ii) Abuja to Kano Road; and (iii) the Second Niger Bridge.
On the MOU, Lisa Osofsky, SFO Director stated that:
“Bribery and corruption not only stifle real economic growth and free trade, they also damage democracy and therefore risk the security of all our countries.”
It is unusual for an SFO award of compensation to have been made to overseas victims of corruption. This is only the second time that an SFO DPA has included compensation for foreign victims of corruption, with the first delivering compensation to the Government of Tanzania after a 2015 DPA with Standard Bank.
Without a doubt, energy companies operate globally across commercially and politically challenging countries, with their actions having a real impact on that country's democracy and security risk. It seems likely that despite this being the first DPA against an energy company, similar action and compensation measures could be put in place against other corporates operating in the high-risk sector, benefiting overseas victims of corruption.
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