United States: The UK’s Serious Fraud Office Secures Its First Series Of Convictions Under The Bribery Act 2010

Last Updated: December 30 2014
Article by Kevin Roberts and Keily Blair

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) secured its first convictions under the Bribery Act 2010 (the "Bribery Act") on 5 December 2014 at Southwark Crown Court following an investigation into the sale and promotion of investment products offered by Sustainable AgroEnergy plc (SAE), a subsidiary of Sustainable Growth Group (SGG).1 The proceeds of the fraud amounted to £23 million.


On 14 August 2013, the SFO charged Mr Gary West, Mr James Whale, Mr Stuart Stone and a fourth individual, Mr Fung Fong Wong, with criminal offences including:

  1. Conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to furnish false information in response to an investigation by the SFO under section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (Mr West, Mr Whale and Mr Stone);
  2. Fraudulent trading contrary to section 933 of the Companies Act 2006 (Mr West and Mr Whale); and
  3. Making and accepting a financial advantage contrary to sections 1 (1) and 2 (1) of the Bribery Act (Mr West, Mr Stone and Mr Wong).

Another SAE/SGG employee involved was not prosecuted by the SFO as, despite the SFO's attempts to have him extradited back to the UK, he is being prosecuted in Cambodia.

The charges and the ultimate convictions came about due to an SFO investigation into the selling and promotion of SAE investment products based on "green biofuel" manufactured from Jatropha tree plantations in Cambodia. SAE claimed to own land in Cambodia which had been planted with Jatropha trees, and further claimed that there was an insurance policy in place to protect investors should the crops fail. These claims were untrue and the money invested by new investors was used to provide a return to earlier investors in the form of a Ponzi scheme. By mid-2011, SAE was insolvent and yet it continued to trade and sell investment products into 2012.

The SFO's investigation also uncovered serious accounting irregularities within SGG. Mr West and Mr Stone, in addition to making false representations to investors, conspired to produce false sales invoices of over £3 million, which allowed Mr Stone to obtain commission rates of 65% on investor's funds. These transactions were disguised using false email addresses, Swiss bank accounts and overseas companies registered in the Seychelles and British Virgin Islands. Mr West received bribes from Mr Stone in connection with his role in the false invoices submitted by Mr Stone.

The SFO's investigation concerned acts which occurred between April 2011 and February 2012. The SFO could therefore bring a prosecution under the Bribery Act, as the relevant acts took place after July 2011, when the Bribery Act came into force.

On 5 November 2014 a jury found that Mr West, Mr Whale and Mr Stone were guilty of offences under the Criminal Law Act 1977 and the Companies Act 2006, and that Mr West and Mr Stone were guilty of offences under the Bribery Act. Mr Wong was found not guilty of accepting bribes under section 2 of the Bribery Act, as the jury determined that he did not know the payment he had received was intended as a bribe.

On 8 December 2014, the judge handed down the following sentences:

  • Gary West: 13 years' imprisonment for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, fraudulent trading, conspiracy to furnish false information and two counts of bribery contrary to section 2 of the Bribery Act (the offence of requesting or accepting a bribe as an improper inducement). West was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for each offence under the Bribery Act, to be served concurrently;
  • James Whale: nine years' imprisonment for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and fraudulent trading; and
  • Stuart Stone: six years' imprisonment for conspiracy to furnish false information and two counts of bribery contrary to sections 1 (1) and (2) of the Bribery Act (the offence of bribing another person). Stone was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for each offence under the Bribery Act, to be served concurrently.

Mr Justice Beddoe described the fraud as a "thickening quagmire of dishonesty . . . there were more than 250 victims of relatively modest means, some of whom had lost all of their life savings and their homes", and added that the bribery was an aggravating feature of the offences.

Mr West and Mr Whale were both disqualified from acting as company directors for 15 years, and Mr Stone was disqualified from acting as a company director for a period of 10 years.


The speed in which the matters were brought to trial—charges were brought in this case within 18 months of the offences and convictions were secured just over a year later—adds credibility to the SFO's claim that it will take swift action against perpetrators of financial and economic crime where practicable. The next test for the SFO under the Bribery Act will be whether it can deliver a successful prosecution in relation to corporate criminal liability under the Bribery Act.


1 http://www.sfo.gov.uk/press-room/latest-press-releases/press-releases-2014/city-directors-sentenced-to-28-years-in-total-for-23m-green-biofuel-fraud.aspx.

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Morrison & Foerster LLP. All rights reserved

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Kevin Roberts
Keily Blair
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.