Cansun Güralp, Andrew Bell and Natalie Pearce have been acquitted of conspiracy to make corrupt payments in relation to payments made to a South Korean public official between 2002 and 2015. The conclusion of the trial removes reporting restrictions on the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) reached by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Güralp Systems Ltd, which was agreed in October. Güralp Systems Ltd accepts the charges of conspiracy to make corrupt payments and a failure to prevent bribery by employees in relation to the payments made between 2002 and 2015.
As a result of this DPA, Güralp Systems Ltd has agreed to pay a total of £2,069,861 for disgorgement of gross profits to the SFO for onward transmission to the Consolidated Fund. The DPA also requires Güralp Systems Ltd to co-operate fully and truthfully with the SFO and to review and maintain its existing internal controls, policies and procedures regarding compliance with the Bribery Act 2010.
Lisa Osofsky, director of the Serious Fraud Office, commented: “The DPA with Güralp Systems Ltd ensures that the company will pay the price for the wrongdoing that occurred under its roof. The DPA is a result of Güralp Systems Ltd’s timely self-reporting and full co-operation and holds the company to account while also promoting positive changes in corporate culture.”
Güralp Systems Ltd appointed a new executive chairman in December 2014 who identified wrongdoing and ordered an internal investigation. Following this internal investigation, Güralp Systems Ltd self-reported to both the SFO and the US Department of Justice on 23 October 2015. The SFO commenced its own independent and comprehensive investigation on 3 December 2015.
Critical of SFO’s approach
Rahman Ravelli’s legal director Syedur Rahman represented Natalie Pearce and is delighted with the outcome of the case. Rahman said: “As a firm that specialises in such cases, we always intended to differentiate our client from the other defendants and prove her innocence. We’re very pleased that the Jury recognised this. This was a lengthy and multi-jurisdictional investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption against South Korean public officials. It’s a case that had a number of dimensions, including the involvement of the US Department of Justice and proceedings in the US. While we always believed that there was no case against Natalie, it’s still satisfying to have a Jury agree with the arguments and the evidence we put forward. We’re very grateful to counsel and all of our legal team.”
Rahman is critical of the SFO’s approach to the case and has questioned the thinking behind the DPA concluded between the SFO and the company. Rahman added: “The SFO had agreed a DPA with Guralp Systems Ltd back in October, but then failed to convict any of the individuals that it charged over the alleged wrongdoing. This will be yet another blow to the SFO and raise further questions about the integrity of the process by which the SFO conducts itself when dealing with the thorny issues around DPAs.”
He continued: “It’s one more indicator that companies would often be better off if they hold their nerve rather than admit wrongdoing and accept a DPA simply because it’s less damaging than a conviction. After all, no individual has yet been convicted after a DPA has been concluded. As nobody at Guralp Systems Ltd – including its founder – has actually been found guilty of any wrongdoing here, it begs the question as to why the company actually admitted to wrongdoing in order to gain a DPA.”