The Leeds office of national law firm Shoosmiths has secured the first ever bribery acquittal for its client following a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA).
Shoosmiths’ client, Mr Michael Sorby, former managing director of Yorkshire-based steel tech business, Sarclad Ltd, was acquitted on a corruption allegation brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Allegations of bribery against Mr Sorby were stopped by the trial Judge who found there was no evidence to support the allegation. This followed the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) entered into by the SFO and Sarclad Ltd in July 2016.
The former managing director and two ex-employees were accused of conspiring with various overseas sales agents during the period of 2004-2011 to offer bribes to secure contracts for their firm. On 16 July 2019 all three defendants were acquitted of all bribery and conspiracy to corrupt charges at Southwark Crown Court.
Dan Stowers, the Shoosmiths’ partner representing Michael Sorby, said: “The verdicts follow an investigation by the SFO which adopted an investigation undertaken by solicitors for The Heico Group the US parent company of Sarclad Ltd which is a medium sized steel tech business based in Yorkshire.
“That internal investigation led Sarclad and the SFO to reach a DPA in 2016 and referred to previously as the XYZ agreement. After a 10 week trial at Southwark Crown Court where the evidence gathered during that investigation was thoroughly tested, the jury properly and unanimously acquitted our client.
“The acquittal casts doubt on the whole of the DPA agreed by the SFO. The SFO’s decisions with regard to the DPA and the decision to prosecute were based on a misunderstanding of the business practices at Sarclad. The SFO was too ready to accept a version of events presented to them by the lawyers for Heico, rather than undertaking an independent investigation of their own.
“Their haste led to an unnecessary, misguided and unsuccessful prosecution. The investigation and, if necessary, prosecution of individuals should precede a DPA and not follow one.”