Bribery Newsflash: Oxford Publishing to pay £3.9 million after admitting bribery and corruption in East African operations
Oxford Publishing Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Oxford University Press (OUP), is to pay nearly £1.9 million under a settlement with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) after admitting bribery and corruption in its East African operations. It will also make a voluntary payment of £2 million to not-for-profit organisations for teacher training and other educational purposes in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2011, OUP became aware of potential irregularities in its tendering processes involving its education business in East Africa. Following an internal investigation, it self-reported the matter to the SFO and the World Bank. The SFO then investigated the matter, and decided to pursue a civil recovery order (as opposed to a criminal prosecution) against Oxford Publishing Limited. The SFO stated in a news release that one of the factors which led to the decision to pursue a civil recovery order, in place of a criminal prosecution, was the fact that OUP had conducted itself in a manner which fully met the criteria set out in the SFO guidance on self-reporting.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the SFO and other bodies can recover the proceeds of criminal conduct by way of a civil recovery order. The decision by the SFO to pursue a civil recovery order, as opposed to a criminal prosecution, mirrors previous enforcement activity in relation to foreign bribery and corruption matters (see our previous e-alerters in relation to Macmillan Publishers Limited and MW Kellogg). The SFO acknowledged that it had been the subject of criticism in relation to the lack of transparency in civil recovery proceedings. It said that as a result of this criticism, it had made public the consent order and the claim in the civil proceedings against Oxford Publishing Limited.
At the beginning of the year, the SFO also used civil recovery powers to recover dividends paid to a parent and sole shareholder of a company in which corruption had taken place (see our earlier e-alerter).
This enforcement action is of particular note due to the fact that its target operates in the charitable and educational sector. OUP is a department of Oxford University, which operates as a charity.
For further information please contact Tony Lewis, Partner, Alexandra Underwood, Partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.