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UK Enforcement: No prison for four convicted in Bertling bribe case

Three former executives of a German logistics firm and an oil company employee they bribed were sentenced to prison in London Friday, but were spared serving any jail time when the judge suspended the sentences.

The three executives of Germany-headquartered FH Bertling Group had pleaded guilty to paying around $445,000 in bribes to help Bertling win a freight forwarding contract with ConocoPhillips worth $20 million.

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

The Bertling executives also bribed ConocoPhillips employees to approve and pay Bertling’s inflated invoices.

Colin Bagwell, FH Berling’s former managing director and chief commercial officer, was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined £5,000 ($6,430).

Stephen Emler, FH Bertling’s former CFO, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for the North Sea bribery plot and concurrently to 18 months for bribery at Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol. Elmer was also fined £15,000 ($19,300).

Giuseppe Morreale, Bertling’s managing director for London, was sentenced to 15 months for the North Sea bribery plot and concurrently to two years in prison for the Angola schemes. He was fined £20,000 ($25,700).

Christopher Lane, the former logistics lead at ConocoPhillips, was sentenced to six months in prison and placed under a 28-day electronic curfew order.

All of the prison sentences were suspended for two years.

The Serious Fraud Office’s criminal investigation began in September 2014.

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

The SFO has charged thirteen individuals in connection with the FH Bertling investigation. Nine were convicted and four have been acquitted.

Bertling’s UK unit, FH Bertling Limited, pleaded guilty in August 2017. The UK unit stopped doing business and went into liquidation.

In October 2017, three other former Bertling executives each received 20-month prison sentences and £20,000 ($25,700) fines. The prison sentences were suspended but the defendants were disqualified from serving as directors of UK companies for five years.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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1 Comment

  1. Reasons for suspending prison term sentence should be provided as failure to do may give the perception that white collar criminals may have reached a deal for the suspension and thus create doubt about the judicial system

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