We have previously reported on the bribery convictions in the Unaoil case being overturned by the UK Court of Appeal and the sentence of Saman Ahsani by the US District Court in Houston, Texas. Saman and his brother Cyrus Ahsani pleaded guilty in 2019 for their role in fixing billions of dollars of corrupt energy deals.  

On 30 January 2023, Saman Ahsani was sentenced to 12 months and one day in a minimum security prison, 12 months’ probation and ordered to pay a $1.5 million penalty. The Court was told he had been an “open book” and had “done everything he can” to assist the US government. He was described by Prosecutors as a key player in a “pervasive and wide-ranging criminal enterprise… that had lined the pockets of corrupt government officials” around the world.

On 23 February 2023, a Texas Federal Judge ruled that unsealing the sentencing memorandum of Saman Ahsani detailing his ongoing co-operation with the US government could endanger him and his family, as well as undermining ongoing investigations. The judge also ruled against unsealing the document with partial redactions. The application was brought by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on behalf of GIR, The Guardian and the Financial Times.

What about the position in England and Wales where offenders provide intelligence or evidence to assist in an investigation or prosecution? 

Assistance provided by defendants in England and Wales is covered by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) and The Sentencing Act 2020. The key features are that "assisting offenders" may receive:

  1. Immunity from prosecution (rare)
  2. Restricted undertakings as to the use of evidence against them
  3. Reduction in sentence pursuant to a written agreement
  4. Review of sentence following a post-sentence agreement and the power to exclude the public from Court during such hearings. 

The most recent notable case of an assisting offender is that of David Lufkin, former Global Head of Sales at Petrofac.

In September 2021, the SFO charged Petrofac with seven separate offences of failing to prevent bribery between 2011 and 2017. £32 million was paid in bribes to corrupt the awarding of contracts worth approximately £2.6 billion. Petrofac pleaded guilty and incurred a total financial penalty of £77 million. The sentencing judge considered that Petrofac's plea was possible only because of Mr Lufkin providing substantial co-operation to the SFO investigators and investigation. He pleaded guilty to 14 counts of bribery as part of a formal co-operation agreement under SOCPA.

For his co-operation, Mr Lufkin was sentenced to a two-year prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Mr Ahsani and Mr Lufkin both admitted their part in significant criminality but their substantial co-operation resulted in lenient sentences, with Mr Lufkin avoiding immediate custody.  Whilst this will offer encouragement, there is no guarantee that providing information will result in a reduction in sentence avoiding imprisonment. This very much depends  on the nature of the information, how it can be used, and whether action can be taken by the investigators as a result; particularly action that might result in others, both individuals and corporates, being prosecuted.

Please click here to listen to our podcast on the Petrofac case.

If we can assist with any of the issues raised within this article, please do get in contact.

Note that you will need hold a subscription to GIR to read the article on the Texas Federal Judge ruling against unsealing the sentencing memoranda.