Business Crime: Bribery and Anti-Corruption

“QEB Hollis Whiteman is identified as a leading criminal fraud set with a "very corporate" approach. Its pool of "high-quality" barristers undertakes an impressive range of defence and prosecution work, with an emphasis on white-collar cases. Instructing solicitors value the chambers' forward-thinking and client-focused approach.” Chambers UK 2014

“QEB Hollis Whiteman is particularly well regarded for SFO work, and has ‘high-class performers’” Legal 500 2014

“This set has recently defended British Airways executives in the BA/Virgin Atlantic price-fixing prosecution, prosecuted one of the largest cases brought by the SFO and provided advice to governmental and corporate clients over issues of bribery, money laundering and international sanctions busting” – Chambers UK 2013

 “QEB's move from premises in the Temple to a new suite of rooms in the City of London reflects its ambitions in a competitive market...".  Members of chambers "regularly involve themselves in causes célèbres of the day, as illustrated by their appearance in the OFT British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fare-fixing case, the FSA ‘pharmaceuticals’ case and the SFO investigation into sanctions busting in Iraq".  Chambers UK 2012.

‘QEB is a “well-oiled legal machine” populated with a string of redoubtable practitioners.  Its members are up to any task...  Examples include the cash for honours investigation’.  Chambers UK 2009.

In the past few years, there has been a significant change in the way in which prosecuting authorities have dealt with allegations of commercial crime.  These changes have coincided with an increase in charges brought by the SFO and the FCA.  

The SFO has, under the superintendence of David Green CB QC, restated its role as the investigation and prosecution of “the topmost tier of serious and complex fraud and bribery…. not a regulator, an educator, an advisor, a confessor, or an apologist.”

The FCA has similarly made clear that it is looking closely at the work that has been done by firms to identify and assess their bribery and corruption risks and factor them into their ABC controls, including policies, procedures and training and monitoring programmes.

Examples of the changes in approach can be also found in the introduction of Deferred Prosecution Agreements and the use of:

•    Encouragement of self-reporting and whistle-blowing
•    Offering immunity from prosecution in return for giving evidence
•    Formalised plea bargaining arrangements
•    Global settlements to ensure international resolution

A further extension of the prosecutorial armoury is the Bribery Act 2010, which was created as the result of considerable international pressure upon the UK to ensure compliance with its obligations fully to tackle bribery and corruption.  It abolished the UK’s entire framework of anti-corruption legislation and economically replaced it with a modern and comprehensive law identifying particular offences of paying (or offering) a bribe, accepting a bribe or bribing a foreign public official with a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Controversially, the Act extended the liability of a corporation and rendered a corporate entity guilty if anyone acting on its behalf bribes another anywhere in the world.  This has radically overhauled the law on corporate liability and extended the jurisdiction covered by UK courts.  Although the offence is one of strict liability, there is a defence for the commercial organisation to show it had adequate procedures in place to prevent persons associated with it from committing bribery offences. Recourse to legal opinion is likely to be essential in the years before regular use and judicial pronouncements make this legislation more ‘user-friendly’.  It will be important to bear in mind that a corporate conviction for an offence that carries the possibility of debarment (discretionary, rather than mandatory in the case of the section 7 offence) could result in the permanent exclusion of that company from public procurement contract opportunities.

QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers has considerable experience in advising, representing and presenting cases in this and similar areas of law.  They are acutely aware of the potential reputational damage to professionals and companies of allegations of bribery and corruption and work closely with their professional clients to ensure that cases are handled with the utmost sensitivity.  Much of the work of the advocate is performed outside of the court-room, advising on best compliance, remedial actions, whether to self-report or not, and in negotiations with other parties to ensure a satisfactory conclusion.  

Chambers has advised, prosecuted and defended in a number of high-profile corruption cases, including:

•    The Stephen Lawrence review of allegations of police corruption
•    The cash-for-honours enquiry
•    Balfour Beatty – use of Civil Recovery Order by SFO
•    The landmark case of Neils Tobiasen - the first ever prosecution for overseas bribery
•    Millennium Dome corruption case
•    Local authority corruption
•    Police corruption
•    Advising a variety of individual/corporate entities on bribery
•    BA [price-fixing]
•    Pharmaceuticals [price-fixing]
•    Marine Hose [price-fixing]

Members of Chambers have been called upon to comment on the advent of new legislation and have also provided a contributing author to the Blackstone’s Guide to the Bribery Act 2010 published by the Oxford University Press.  That publication is described by Lord Woolf in the foreword as being of ‘very considerable assistance to those persons who could be affected by the provisions of the Act’.  

In addition, Chambers has contributed to a Practical Law Company Practice Note entitled, ‘Debarment from public contracts and the Bribery Act 2010’.  DOWNLOAD HERE.

Notable cases:

R v Rifat (2015)
Represented the FCA at the sentencing hearing of ex Moore’s Capital trader Julian Rifat
Mark Ellison QC

Operation Tabernula (Ongoing) (2013)
FCA's largest insider dealings case
Sean Larkin QC

R v Ajaib (2013)
Multi-million pound fraud
Sean Larkin QC

Re: H (2012)
Major bribery case
John Hilton QC

R v CDW (2012)
Defending money launderer in high profile corruption case
Alexandra Felix

R v Rumsey & others (2011)
£100 million boiler room fraud

British Airways / Virgin Price-Fixing Trial (2010)
First trial of cartel offence under Enterprise Act
William Boyce QC | Adrian Darbishire QC

R v M (2010)
 Leading junior in conspiracy to defraud the NHS
Alexandra Felix

Cricket Match Fixing Allegations (2010)
September 2010
Philip Evans

R v ER (2010)
Defending in £1 million money laundering
Alexandra Felix


Rachna Gokani co-authors new guide Bribery: Law and Practice
A new work on bribery, Bribery: Law and Practice is published by Oxford University Press in March 2016. 18.2.2016

Bribery Act Update June 2013
Recent media reports suggest that the Government is set to reconsider and review the provisions of the Bribery Act 2010, to r 3.6.2013

Debarment from public contracts & the Bribery Act 2010
Download HERE.  Reproduced from PLC Public Sector with the permission of the publishers.  Further information at ww 10.10.2012

The Bribery Act 2010 - A Short Guide
Sean Larkin QC provides a new short guide to the Bribery Act 2010 8.11.2011
Download (PDF) >

Global Reference Guide: Fraud & White Collar Crime 2011
Financier Worldwide has released an e-book. Mark Ellison QC comments on the enhanced risk of those involved in running compa 18.5.2011
Download (PDF) >

Adequate Procedures Handout - Bribery Act 2010
Sean Larkin QC and Rachna Gokani provide further guidance in relation to the Bribery Act 29.9.2010
Download (PDF) >

Blackstones Guide to the Bribery Act - Rachna Gokani - Contributing Author
QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers are delighted to announce that the long awaited Blackstones Guide to the Bribery Act has been re 23.9.2010

Fighting Bribery; New UK Legislation Explained - Sean Larkin QC
Fighting Bribery; New UK Legislation Explained - Sean Larkin QC in conjunction with Commercial Crime International. 1.4.2010
Download (PDF) >

The Bribery Bill 2010 - An Overview
This article provides an overview of the Government’s recent strategy to fight bribery and corruption, particularly ove 28.1.2010
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For more information on Fraud-related matters, please contact the clerks on 020 7933 8855 or