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Four more convictions in SFO investigation into FH Bertling freight contracts

The UK Serious Fraud Office said three former FH Bertling Group senior executives and a ConocoPhillips employee were convicted Tuesday for their role in a bribes-for-contracts plot.

Executives at Germany-headquartered FH Bertling paid around $445,000 in bribes to win a freight forwarding contract with ConocoPhillips worth $20 million.

The contract was for the “Jasmine” North Sea oil project, the SFO said

FH Bertling executives also paid bribes to guarantee that the inflated prices they were charging for other services would be pushed through by ConocoPhillips employees.

Stephen Emler, FH Bertling’s former CFO, and Giuseppe Morreale pleaded guilty to their part in the bribes-for-contracts plot. 

Morreale was the Bertling’s managing director for the London, Caspian, and Kazakhstan operations regions. 

Christopher Lane, the former logistics lead at ConocoPhillips, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for his role in the overcharging scheme. 

Colin Bagwell, the former managing director and chief commercial officer at FH Bertling, was convicted by the jury for his conspiracy with Lane.

“These senior executives failed to show any integrity, resorting to bribery to secure lucrative contracts and hide their illicit activities. It is our mission to bring criminals like these to justice,” SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said. 

The criminal investigation into FH Bertling began in September 2014 and the first charges were announced in July 2016.

In September 2017, three former senior employees pleaded guilty to charges in a separate overseas bribery case involving a conspiracy to make corrupt payments to an agent of the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol.

The Sonangol bribes paid from 2004 to 2006 helped Bertling win and keep a freight and forwarding contract worth about $21 million.

Two of the defendants convicted Tuesday, Emler and Morreale, were also convicted last year in the Sonangol-related investigation.

In total, thirteen individuals have been charged in the SFO’s investigation into FH Bertling. Nine have now been convicted and four have been acquitted.

A sentencing hearing for the “Jasmine” case is scheduled for December 11, 2018.

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Harry Cassin is the managing editor of the FCPA Blog. 

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