The founder of British seismic equipment company Güralp Systems Ltd, Cansun Guralp, its former finance director Andrew Bell and Natalie Pearce, the company’s sales head, were acquitted at London’s Southwark Crown Court of conspiracy to make corrupt payments. The conclusion of the trial removes reporting restrictions on the Deferred Prosecution Agreement reached by the SFO and Güralp Systems Ltd, which was agreed in October 2019.
Rahman Ravelli's Legal Director Syed Rahman represented Natalie Pearce and is delighted with the outcome of the case but highly critical of the SFO's approach:
He said: “We are delighted with the result. As a firm that specialises in such cases we always intended to differentiate our client from the other defendants and prove her innocence. We are very pleased that the jury recognised this.
“This was a lengthy, multi-jurisdictional investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption against South Korean public officials. It is a case that had a number of dimensions, including the involvement of the US’ Department of Justice and proceedings in the US.
“While we always believed that there was no case against Natalie it is still satisfying to have a jury agree with the arguments and the evidence that we put forward. And we are grateful to counsel and all our legal team.’’
Syedur Rahman was critical of the Serious Fraud Office’s approach to the case and questioned the thinking behind the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) concluded between the SFO and the company.
He added: “The SFO had agreed a DPA with Guralp Systems in October 2019. But the SFO then failed to convict any of the individuals that it charged over the alleged wrongdoing. This will, therefore, be yet another blow to the SFO and will raise questions yet again about the integrity of the process by which the SFO conducts itself when dealing with the thorny issues of DPAs.
“It is one more indicator that companies would often be better off if they hold their nerve rather than admit wrongdoing and accept a DPA simply because it is less damaging than a conviction. After all, no individual has yet been convicted after a DPA has been concluded.
“As nobody at Guralp Systems – including its founder – has actually been found guilty of any wrongdoing it begs the question why the company actually admitted to wrongdoing in order to gain a DPA.
“As a firm, Rahman Ravelli is also particularly interested to find out why – after everyone has been acquitted – the SFO has released the DPA, which contains the names of those blamed for the alleged wrongdoing. The names have never been included in any other DPA – all of which were made public before any trial – and it seems hugely unfair that documents are now in existence naming our client for being involved in wrongdoing when she has been cleared of all blame by a court of law.’’