December 16, 2014

Trio jailed after investigation into biofuels fraud

Following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, Gary West, James Whale and Stuart Stone were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to furnish false information, fraudulent trading and Bribery Act offences.

The SFO had launched an investigation into the collapsed biofuels firm Sustainable Growth Group and its subsidiary companies (Sustainable AgroEnergy plc and Sustainable Wealth UK Investments Ltd), following concerns about the investment products being promoted and sold.

More than 250 investors were deliberately misled into believing that SAE owned land in Cambodia that was planted with Jatropha trees (the source of the eco-friendly fuel) and that there was an insurance policy in place if the crops failed.

West is a former director and chief commercial officer of SAE, Whale is the former chief executive of SGG and Stone was director of SJ Stone Ltd, a sales agent of unregulated pension and investment products.

Commenting on the verdict David Green, SFO Director said: 'These three individuals preyed on investors, many of whom were duped into investing life savings and pension funds. As a result, many lost life-changing amounts of money.

People often think that bribery is a victimless crime. However, in this case there were real losers. The bribery facilitated a fraud where people lost out.
Whilst the case is not a case clarifying the corporate liability which is set out in the Bribery Act, the case demonstrates again that the authorities when presented with a case involving bribery will enforce the Bribery Act. It is therefore necessary for businesses, companies and individuals with activity in the United Kingdom to make sure that they have put in place measures to counter the potential effects of the Bribery Act.

For more information, please feel free to contact Claus Andersen on  020 7583 2222.

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