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GPT Corruption in Saudi Arabia

Author: Nicola Sharp  6 May 2021

Nicola Sharp of Rahman Ravelli summarises events that led to the Airbus subsidiary paying millions for wrongdoing in securing a contract.

A unit of Airbus SE is paying more than £30 million after admitting one count of corruption relating to work it did for the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

In 2020, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charged GPT Special Project Management Ltd. with corruption between 2007 and 2012, which was then narrowed to between December 2008 and July 2010. GPT pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court and accepted a £20.6 million confiscation order and a £7.5 million fine and was also ordered to pay £2.2 million SFO costs.

GPT was a UK company and Airbus subsidiary that operated in Saudi Arabia until closing down a year ago. The investigation into its work for Saudi Arabia began in 2012.

In passing sentence, Judge Simon Bryan said the guilty plea “forms part of a history of corruption that had existed for a number of years, before and after the indictment period.”

Prosecutors alleged that the Riyadh-based subsidiary paid bribes to win a £2 billion contract to provide services and training for the Saudi Arabian National Guard. The services were provided on behalf of the UK government, and the Attorney General sought external legal advice on the case.

In a statement, Airbus said: “The SFO’s investigation related to contractual arrangements originating prior to GPT’s acquisition by Airbus and continuing thereafter,” adding “cooperation with the SFO and GPT’s acceptance of responsibility reflects a commitment to confront and learn from the mistakes of the past and build on the significant compliance reforms implemented.”

Judge Bryan said government knowledge and involvement in the corruption began in the 1970s, went up until 2006 and maybe continued even further.

Three individuals are due to face trials in 2022, on charges of corruption, misconduct in public office and aiding and abetting. Given the SFO’s recent history regarding investigations into companies and its failure to prosecute individuals on the same facts, it will be interesting to see the outcome of the trials. 

As GPT did not enter into a deferred prosecution agreement - instead pleading guilty to one count of corruption, contrary to s1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 - it remains to be seen whether this will have an effect on the individual prosecutions.

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Nicola Sharp


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Nicola is known for her fraud, civil recovery, arbitration and business crime expertise, her experience of leading the largest financial disputes and multinational investigations and her skills in devising preventative measures and conducting internal investigations for corporates.

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