Crime: Bribery and Anti-Corruption

‘QEB Hollis Whiteman’s panoply of silks and juniors gives it the bench strength to advise on the full range of criminal matters.’ Legal 500 2012.

“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 and Partners 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 laid by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Services Authority. The arrival of David Green CB QC at the SFO is likely to ensure a further increase. On 9 October 2012, the SFO revised its statements of policy on facilitation payments, business expenditure and corporate self-reporting. Their self-proclaimed purpose is to ‘restate the SFO's primary role as an investigator and prosecutor of serious or complex fraud, including corruption’.

The FSA 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 use of:

  • Encouragement of self-reporting and whistle-blowing
  • Offering immunity from prosecution in return for giving evidence
  • Civil recovery rather than criminal prosecutions
  • Formalised plea bargaining arrangements
  • Global settlements to ensure international resolution
  • The prospect of Deferred Prosecution Agreements in the near future

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 to fully 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 renders 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 where issues arise. Members of chambers are aware of the fact that allegations such as bribery, fraud, processing the proceeds of crime can be damaging to professionals and companies and must be handled sensitively. 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 negotiations with other parties to ensure a satisfactory conclusion. Members of chambers have prosecuted and defended in a number of high-profile corruption cases, including:

  • 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’. This document can be downloaded from the "Articles" area to the right hand side of this page.


Notable cases:

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

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

R v Madden (2013)
Allegation of £2.8m film tax credit fraud
Selva Ramasamy

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

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

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

R v Marshall - Inquest in the death of Terry Jupp (2005) - (2010)
Prosecution and inquest concerning the death of a government scientist in th course of secret explosive trials.


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) >

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

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
Download (PDF) >

For more information on crime-related matters, please contact the clerks on 020 7933 8855 or