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Bribery Newsflash: Alstom directors' challenge to SFO search warrants fails

Locations

United Kingdom

This judgment is a warning to all UK directors and highlights the serious consequences of failing to comply with anti-bribery legislation

On 15 April applications were made for permission for Judicial Review by Mr Robert Purcell and Mr Stephen Burgin, both current directors of Alstom in the UK. The applications concerned issues relating to the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the company Alstom (see our Bribery Update on 24 March 2010).

Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Stadlen today refused permission for Judicial Review. Permission was sought in relation to the lawfulness of search warrants at the home addresses of Purcell and Burgin by the SFO. Challenges were made on the bases of: absence of reasons, lack of reasonable grounds, omission of relevant information, inclusion of irrelevant information, overbroad and non-specific warrant. Permission was refused on all grounds.

Permission was also sought to argue lack of reasonable grounds for suspicion in relation to their arrests. This issue will be argued in full at a later date.

Commentary

The Administrative Court has sent a clear message that the SFO has the power in appropriate circumstances to launch simultaneous dawn raids on the home addresses of directors of a company suspected of bribery. This judgment is a warning to all UK directors and highlights the serious consequences of failing to comply with anti-bribery legislation. All UK directors would be well advised to take steps to assess the risks of bribery in their business and implement procedures to prevent bribery. If a bribery issue is uncovered directors should seek advice on how to minimise the impact of the issue and head off a full blown criminal investigation by the SFO which could include a search of their domestic residence. 

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