Innospec case in the U.K. could impact transnational bribery law

If the U.K.’s sentencings of those convicted of corruption are low enough, other countries might decide to prosecute British citizens on their own shores

The Innospec trial conducted cross-jurisdictionally in the U.K. and U.S. is coming to a close soon with the sentencing of four men, two of whom pleaded guilty to corruption in 2012, and two of whom were recently found guilty of conspiracy to commit corruption. Their participation in the trade of illicit goods earned Innospec millions of dollars in illegal profits, and international notoriety for the company’s executives. 

A U.K. court found Dennis Kerrison and Miltiades Papachristos guilty after a conducted investigation by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office led the court to determine that they — along with David Turner and Paul Jennings who had pled guilty in 2012 — paid bribes to Indonesian officials to secure sales of tetraethyl lead, also known as TEL. The toxin is considered highly dangerous, and was created as an octane booster to be added to engine fuel. Fuel that contains TEL was banned in the U.K. in 2000 because links between it and severe neurological damage were found. 

The former executives are to be sentenced in London on July 25, and their pending sentences bring up questions for international law as multiple countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Iraq, the U.K., and the U.S. have been involved in the proceedings. White & Case partner Kathleen Hamann, a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who led the multi-jurisdictional prosecution of Innospec, says that — depending on the severity of the sentences in the U.K. — other countries’ decisions to prosecute British individuals themselves.

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She brings up the case of Ousama M. Naaman — Innospec’s agent in Iraq who conducted bribes — who was sentenced in the U.S. Hamann says that his lawyers argued for a lighter sentence because the other Innospec members were facing conviction in the U.K., and “it should be assumed that the U.K. sentences would be much lower.” Namaan received 30 months after pleading guilty in 2010 to conspiracy and substantial Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations  — a significantly lower sentence than what the Department of Justice asked for. 

Hamann points out: “If there is a large disparity, [between the sentencing of Naaman and the sentencing of the others] t could have a notable impact on what kind of sentences are handed down in the future by both countries to individuals who are found guilty of corruption in cross-jurisdictional cases.” 

While this issue is at the heart of most transnational bribery cases, Innospec’s case could have an impact on future cross-jurisdictional proceedings between the U.S. and U.K., specifically. The two countries’ legal cooperation could be compromised when it comes to prosecuting individuals and companies — a dangerous precedent to set for future transnational bribery cases. Hamann notes:

“[A disparity] could also cause significant problems for both companies and individuals if the U.S. and the U.K. end up in a “race to the courthouse” and are conducting separate, and potentially conflicting, investigations rather than cooperating. These kinds of problems have arisen in transnational bribery cases in the past, sometimes with serious consequences for those under investigation.”

With these kinds of impacts for the cross-jurisdictional scene at hand, the sentencing will be high-stakes come July 25.

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to InsideCounsel.com, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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