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SFO loss: UK defendants acquitted for Nigeria payments

Image courtesy of Google MapsThree employees of Swift Technical Solutions Ltd were found not guilty at Southwark Crown Court in London of corruption offenses related to the tax affairs of a Nigerian subsidiary, the SFO said Tuesday.

The jury wasn’t able to reach a verdict on one count against the third defendant and was discharged. 

The SFO told the court it doesn’t intend to seek a retrial on that count and a verdict of not guilty was entered.

Swift’s principal business is supplying manpower to the global oil and gas industry. It employs 3,000 contractors in about 35 countries.

By 2010, the UK-based company had business interests in a number of countries including Nigeria. It no longer operates there, the SFO said.

The SFO brought the charges in late 2012. 

It said the defendants paid alleged bribes of £180,000 ($275,000) to officials in Nigeria to lower Swift’s tax bill.

The defendants were:

Bharat Sodha, 51, of Middlesex, the former international tax manager

Nidhi Vyas, 49, of Middlesex, the former financial controller

Trevor Bruce, 46, of Northern Ireland, the former area director for Nigeria

Payments allegedly went to agents of the Rivers State Board of Internal Revenue and the Lagos State Board of Internal Revenue, both in Nigeria.

The alleged payments were made in 2008 and 2009, before enactment of the U.K. Bribery Act.

Bharat Sodha was acquitted of two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments.

Nidhi Vyas was acquitted of one count of conspiracy to make corrupt payments on the direction of the judge at the close of the prosecution case. The jury acquitted her of another similar count.

Trevor Bruce was acquitted of one count of conspiracy to make corrupt payments and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the other.

Swift cooperated with the SFO and wasn’t charged.

A fourth defendant, Paul Jacobs, 57, of Hertfordshire, the former chief financial officer, was dropped from the case before trial because of poor health.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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