Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations


Friday, 11 January 2019

Former Unaoil exec pleads not guilty to SFO corruption charges

Stephen Whiteley, the former vice-president of Dutch oil services company SBM Offshore and ex-manager at Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil, has pleaded not guilty to a 21 December charge of conspiracy to make corrupt payments.

Appearing at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on 9 January, Whiteley denied UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) allegations that he assisted Unaoil to be engaged as a subcontractor for an oil pipeline project in Iraq. The pre-trial preparation hearing in the case is set for 6 February.

He and three other ex-Unaoil employees are due to stand trial in January 2020.

Whiteley was charged in November 2017 with a separate count of corruption over allegations that he made corrupt payments to secure contracts in Iraq for SBM Offshore. 

Fiat Chrysler to pay more than $800 million to settle emissions case

Fiat Chrysler has entered into a settlement worth more than $500 million with the US Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of California to resolve allegations that the Italian-American installed illegal software in its diesel cars to cheat emissions tests. 

The settlement includes civil penalties of $311 million, $19 million to mitigate excess emissions and $185 million as part of a recall programme. 

The agreement did not resolve any potential criminal liability. A Fiat spokesperson told the New York Times that the software in its cars did not amount to an illegal defeat device. 

Fiat has also separately agreed to pay $300 million to settle a related class-action lawsuit.

Nissan files criminal complaint against Ghosn

Japanese carmaker Nissan said in a statement on 11 January that it has filed a criminal complaint against Carlos Ghosn with Tokyo prosecutors over allegations that the former chairman misused company funds.

Nissan’s internal investigation continues, the company said in the statement.  

Tokyo prosecutors charged Ghosn on 11 January with aggravated breach of trust and underreporting his compensation, according to reports. The fresh charges add to his indictment in December for making false disclosures in relation to his compensation. 

Renault Group, which is an alliance-partner of Nissan, said in a 10 January statement that its internal investigation has so far not found any evidence that the compensation Ghosn received between 2017 and 2018 was fraudulent. 

European Court of Auditors criticises OLAF and urges reform

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has accused the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) of poor performance in preventing fraud and has called upon the European Commission to implement extensive reform.

In a report published on 10 January, the ECA said that OLAF’s current investigation process of referring potential cases to national authorities takes too much time and decreases the chance of prosecution. “As a result, OLAF investigations result in the prosecution of suspected fraudsters in about 45% of cases,” the ECA said in the report.

The ECA said in the report that a renewed anti-fraud strategy is needed. 

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