Peters & Peters

Peters & Peters successfully opposes a multi-million pound NCA forfeiture application

On 20 October 2020, District Judge Rimmer handed down judgment dismissing the NCA’s application to forfeit £3.2million held in the bank account of our client, the former CEO of a multi-national corporation in the offshore oil and energy sector (the “Company”).

In November 2017, our client entered a plea agreement in the United States, pursuant to which he pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to pay bribes on the basis of wilful blindness, contrary to the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). Our client was sentenced to a term of three years imprisonment and a fine of US$150,000. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) did not pursue forfeiture proceedings against our client.

On 29 November 2017, the Company entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”) with the DOJ for breaching the FCPA over the period 1996 to 2012, pursuant to which it agreed to pay a total criminal penalty of US$238 million.

In November 2018, prior to voluntarily leaving the UK for the US to serve his sentence, the NCA obtained Account Freezing Orders (“AFOs”) for a sum in excess of £5 million held in our client’s UK bank accounts. The AFOs were based on his US conviction and unsubstantiated suspicions that went beyond the scope of our client’s US plea. The frozen funds represented our client’s remuneration during his three-year tenure as CEO, as well as pension payments and other savings accrued over 31 years of previously unblemished service to his employer.

We cooperated with the NCA investigation and very early on alerted them to the glaring difficulty in their case: it was not possible to identify any causal connection between the unlawful conduct and the frozen funds.

Despite this alarming lacuna, on 7 January 2020, the NCA applied for forfeiture of all or such part of the frozen funds as the Court considered to be recoverable property. They did so without identifying any specific sum as the proceeds of our client’s unlawful conduct and continually changed their case (including the sum sought) to fit the scant evidence they had obtained.

DJ Rimmer, in rejecting their application, gave a damning judgment of the NCA’s conduct in the case and found entirely in our client’s favour.

Partner Maria Cronin and Associate Karl Masi acted on this case.

[David Perry Q.C. and Will Hays of 6 King’s Bench Walk College Hill were instructed as leading and junior counsel]