In 2018, the UK Serious Fraud Office recovered £4.4 million ($6.2 million) from two Chad diplomats who took bribes from Canadian oil company Griffiths Energy in the U.S and Canada. The recovered money was transferred to Chad and used in aid and development programs. What was the money used for and did it make a difference?
At the time of the settlement, the SFO said the funds would be transferred to the Department for International Development (DFID), which would identify key projects to invest in that would benefit the poorest people in Chad.
It was the first time in the UK that money was returned overseas through a civil recovery case.
What was the result?
In a November 2021 report, UK Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said the returned proceeds of corruption have provided “life-saving support to more than 150,000 vulnerable people in Chad.”
According to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, the £4.4 million ($6.2 million) went to the following efforts in Chad:
- The Red Cross received £200,000 ($245,000) for emergency assistance, including protection activities.
- UNICEF received £1.8 million ($2.2 million) for nutrition support.
- The UN World Food Program received £1.3 million ($1.6 million) for food assistance.
- For Covid-19 treatment, £350,000 ($430,000) was used to fund the deployment of a UK Emergency Medical Team, and £755,176 ($929,000) went to the Tackling Deadly Diseases in Africa program.
It’s astonishing that 150,000 people had improved access to food, medicine, and disease treatment from what — by our industry’s scale — was a pocket-change settlement.
The money the SFO recovered was just a portion of what was recovered globally from the Griffith bribery scheme.
In 2013, Griffiths Energy paid a C$10 million ($7.75 million) criminal fine after pleading guilty in a Canadian court to violating the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a related complaint for civil forfeiture of $34 million in assets held by Chad’s former ambassador to the United States and Canada, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, and his wife, along with Youssouf Hamid Takane, Chad’s deputy chief of mission in the United States. Proceedings related to the this case are still ongoing in the United States.
As far as we know, the UK was the only country to deploy any of the settlement to foreign aid. It wasn’t the first time, either. The SFO used money from a confiscation order against executives at Smith & Ouzman convicted of bribery in 2016 to buy seven new ambulances in Kenya.
The United Kingdom and SFO’s approach could be a three-step model for others to follow:
- Confiscate profits from corrupt deals.
- Coordinate with outside and well established aid organizations.
- Track and report progress publicly.
If you wanted to market it: Confiscate, Coordinate, Celebrate.
With total FCPA penalties approaching $25 billion in the United States, the SFO’s results in Chad show that even a modest financial investment in a developing country can have a tremendous impact.
Corruption settlements might be the perfect way to fund it.