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Disclosure disaster? Pending Unaoil ruling in the Court of Appeal places further pressure on the Serious Fraud Office

Disclosure disaster? Pending Unaoil ruling in the Court of Appeal places further pressure on the Serious Fraud Office

Recent Court of Appeal hearing will be a key test for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) amid ongoing disclosure issues in other bribery prosecutions. The Court heard that the SFO took a “deliberate” decision not to disclose “potentially embarrassing” material about the SFO director’s contact with Ahsanis’ “freelance agent” to the defence. There are ongoing questions about the lack of action in respect of the Ahsanis’ assets in the UK, particularly in light of recent revelations in the Pandora...

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UK’s ongoing weak link in the fight against dirty money – the supervision of lawyers and accountants

UK’s ongoing weak link in the fight against dirty money – the supervision of lawyers and accountants

The 2021 review of how the UK’s 22 different legal and accountancy supervisors (known as Professional Body Supervisors or PBS), are performing in terms of combating dirty money was released this week by their oversight body, the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS).  Three years on from a scathing assessment by global money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), that weaknesses in these sectors’ supervision posed “a significant issue for...

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Boardman’s Greensill review makes a pitch for bold reform – will it shift the dial?

Boardman’s Greensill review makes a pitch for bold reform – will it shift the dial?

Nigel Boardman’s 19 recommendations and 5 suggestions resulting from the Greensill scandal were finally published last week, after sitting in the government’s in-tray since early August. It has been worth the wait though, with plenty of good recommendations to chew on, including a very welcome recommendation to renew the government’s Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2022 and include public integrity standards. However, Boardman’s report also raises questions about whether Ministers are outside of...

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Settling with kleptocracy – do the UK’s civil recovery settlements let money laundering suspects off the hook?

Settling with kleptocracy – do the UK’s civil recovery settlements let money laundering suspects off the hook?

6th July 2021 Some initial thoughts from Susan Hawley, Executive Director of Spotlight on Corruption   From the reaction on social media, yesterday’s National Crime Agency (NCA) settlement with Izzat Javadovaand her husband, Suleyman Javadov, in relation to millions of pounds allegedly laundered into the UK through the Azerbaijani Laundromat, has not gone down well. Izzat is the first cousin to the President of Azerbaijan and her husband, Suleyman, is the son of the former Azerbaijani Deputy...

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The US Department of Justice shouldn’t get away with acting as the bully of anti-bribery enforcement: lessons from the Tom Martin employment tribunal.

The US Department of Justice shouldn’t get away with acting as the bully of anti-bribery enforcement: lessons from the Tom Martin employment tribunal.

On 17th February 2021, a UK employment tribunal found that Tom Martin - a former case controller at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) - had been unfairly and wrongfully dismissed. Martin had been responsible for the agency’s investigation into bribery by oil services firm Unaoil, an intermediary for some of the world’s biggest oil companies.  Martin was first suspended in July 2018 and then dismissed in December 2018 by the SFO after a complaint made by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged...

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The UK’s framework for regulating ethical standards in government is not working. It’s time for an independent Ethics Commission.

The UK’s framework for regulating ethical standards in government is not working. It’s time for an independent Ethics Commission.

Introduction The UK’s approach to regulating ethical standards in government is in dire need of reform. The patchwork of regulatory bodies has developed in response to scandals rather than as a coherent approach to tackling corruption risks. Covid-19 and Brexit have stretched the system to breaking point. With some of the UK’s closest allies setting up centralised anti-corruption and pro-integrity bodies, there is a real opportunity for the UK to take a long hard look at whether its current...

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Government must get a grip on conflicts of interest in public procurement or risk losing the UKs reputation as a fair place to do business

Government must get a grip on conflicts of interest in public procurement or risk losing the UKs reputation as a fair place to do business

Last week’s much anticipated National Audit Office report into the government’s handling of emergency procurement during COVID-19 effectively corroborated widespread allegations of cronyism in the dishing out of PPE contracts. The report, covered extensively in the foreign press, found that 493 suppliers were referred through a “high priority lane” managed through a dedicated mailbox used by Ministers, MPs, Lords and officials and that those referred through this lane were 10 times more likely...

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Cleaning up the audit sector: why the government should consider banning Ernst & Young from public contracts

Cleaning up the audit sector: why the government should consider banning Ernst & Young from public contracts

16th November  On Friday 13th November, Spotlight on Corruption wrote to the government’s procurement body, the Crown Commercial Service, asking it to review whether the accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) should be banned from bidding on public contracts for three years. EY has been hit by a number of recent scandals, including: advising a client to hide evidence of a illegal gold smuggling operation, not picking up signs of an extensive money laundering scheme at Danske Bank, as well as...

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The UK’s corporate crime rules – why urgent change is needed

The UK’s corporate crime rules – why urgent change is needed

Summary The Law Commission’s recent announcement that it will review corporate crime rules is a welcome and important step towards reforming the UK’s antiquated principle for prosecuting companies; The government has given the Law Commission until the end of 2021 to come up with an options paper. It is unlikely that any legislative reform could be brought before Parliament before 2023 at the earliest on this timescale; The Law Commission review should be urgently accompanied by a failure to...

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What can we learn from COVID-19 loan transparency in the United States?

What can we learn from COVID-19 loan transparency in the United States?

Publishing the names of COVID-19 loan recipients could be a crucial way of recouping billions of pounds lost to fraud and wrongful claims. Last week, the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report into the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) that revealed the taxpayer could lose up to £26 billion as a result of fraud or credit default.  Additionally, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) annual report shows that the two other government loan programs - The...

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UK’s ongoing weak link in the fight against dirty money – the supervision of lawyers and accountants

FinCEN Files: UK’s failure to prosecute high-end money laundering shows UK banks are above the law

21 September 2020   The release of the FinCEN files exposes the role of big banks in facilitating money laundering as well as demonstrating how UK banks are beyond the reaches of the law. For the past few years, the government has focused almost exclusively on developing public private partnerships with banks in tackling money laundering rather than holding them to account for the part they play. This culminated in the UK’s major banks being brought in to help design the UK’s economic...

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Blind Trusts: are they enough to avoid conflicts of interest?

Blind Trusts: are they enough to avoid conflicts of interest?

16 September 2020 The Guardian reported on the 3rd September that Lord Agnew had relinquished control over his shares in Faculty Science after Spotlight on Corruption and several media outlets flagged a potential conflict of interest between his position in government and the AI firm continuing to win contracts across government. Lord Agnew, who serves as the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office was reported to have transferred his shares into a ‘blind trust arrangement’.  Blind trust...

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Disclosure disaster? Pending Unaoil ruling in the Court of Appeal places further pressure on the Serious Fraud Office

Unaoil – a very complicated win for the Serious Fraud Office

13 July 2020    In a much-needed win for the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, two out of three of those it was prosecuting for corruption in the Unaoil case were found guilty. The case has exposed some ugly competition between global enforcement agencies, and some alarming behaviour by the new Director of the Serious Fraud Office in her pursuit of American style techniques in corruption and fraud cases. But the questions left at the end of the trial are why the victims of corruption in Iraq did not...

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The NCA’s Kazakh Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) – a costly decision?

The NCA’s Kazakh Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) – a costly decision?

1 July 2020 On 17 June 2020, Lady Justice Carr unequivocally refused the National Crime Agency’s (“NCA”) application for permission to appeal. The NCA had sought to challenge Justice Lang’s decision to discharge the unexplained wealth orders (“UWO”) against the Aliyev family (see our earlier post). The NCA had an uphill struggle given that Lang J had found that it was an unreliable assumption to say that the funds had originated from Rakhat Aliyev. Carr LJ agreed, finding that the lower...

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Transparency in COVID-19 public bailouts

Transparency in COVID-19 public bailouts

Along with the Fraud Advisory Panel and Transparency International UK, we wrote to the government on 16 June to ask them to publish the names of all those who have received bailout loans. The letter can be seen here. Here we explain why such transparency is needed.  On 23 March the UK government announced it would provide £330 billion worth of loans and guarantees to support businesses that are struggling as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:  The Coronavirus Business...

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Financing Bribery?

Financing Bribery?

Presentation by Sue Hawley to the OECD about the role of Export Credit Agencies in fighting corruption.

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