Stephen Emler and Giuseppe Morreale pleaded guilty for their part in a corrupt scheme to secure a ConocoPhillips freight forwarding contract, eventually worth over £16 million, for FH Bertling as part of the ‘Jasmine’ North Sea oil exploration project, it can now be reported.
Christopher Lane pleaded guilty to a separate bribery scheme involving overcharging. Colin Bagwell was convicted by the Jury of the same offence.
Paying over £350,000 in bribes and facilitation payments, FH Bertling executives made these corrupt payments to ensure their bid for the ConocoPhillips ‘Jasmine’ shipping contract was successful and separately to obtain assurance that inflated prices it charged for additional services were waived through by ConocoPhillips staff.
These convictions add to the seven already secured by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) against former FH Bertling Group senior executives and the company, including Stephen Emler and Giuseppe Morreale, for a separate Angola bribery scheme.
In related proceedings, Georgina Ayres, Robert McNally and Peter Smith were acquitted of charges relating to the ‘Jasmine’ case on 27 November. Colin Bagwell was found guilty of conspiring with Christopher Lane in the overcharging scheme.
Bringing criminals to justice
SFO director Lisa Osofsky said:“These senior executives failed to show any integrity, resorting to bribery to secure lucrative contracts and hide their illicit activities. It’s our mission to bring criminals like these to justice. Bribery has no place in business either here in Britain or abroad. It undermines the rule of law, distorts our economy and damages the reputation of the UK.”
The criminal investigation into corruption at FH Bertling began in September 2014, with the first charges announced in July 2016. In total, 13 individuals were charged as part of the SFO’s case, with nine convicted of one or more charges and four individuals acquitted.
The SFO’s ‘Jasmine’ case focused on two bribery schemes created to secure a freight forwarding contract dishonestly from ConocoPhillips eventually worth £16 million. The second scheme targeted Christopher Lane to ensure ConocoPhillips would waive through inflated prices FH Bertling charged for additional freight services without complaint.
A separate investigation into FH Bertling’s business in Angola revealed that senior executives had conspired to pay bribes to an Angola state oil company agent to secure around $21 million worth of shipping contracts. The company, Stephen Emler, Giuseppe Morreale, Jorg Blumberg, Ralf Petersen, Dirk Juergensen and Marc Schweiger also pleaded guilty prior to the trial. One defendant, Peter Ferdinand, was acquitted.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday 11 December.