SFO enters one-year DPA with UK aircraft maintenance company

On October 30, 2020, the UK Serious Fraud Office announced that it had entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Airline Services Limited (“ASL”), an aircraft exterior and interior maintenance and support services company based in Manchester, UK, for the company's conduct contrary to the Bribery Act 2010.

ASL first disclosed the matter to the SFO in July 2015, and has, according to the SFO, cooperated throughout the investigation.  According to the Statement of Facts stipulated as part of the DPA, ASL used an agent to secure business from Deutsche Lufthansa AG and one of its subsidiaries, Lufthansa Technik AG, while the same agent served as a consultant, and later an employee, of Lufthansa.  The SFO identified three contracts between late 2011 and 2013, in which the agent appears to have abused his position to bestow an unfair business advantage on ASL, writing in an email, for example, “As spoken on the phone earlier, you are aware that I work behind the scene inside DLH/LHT to bring Airline Services more business from the DLH group. In the next few days, you should receive a tender for a new project.”

During a period overlapping with the misconduct, ASL engaged outside counsel to review its compliance program in anticipation of implementation of the Bribery Act 2010.  While the review produced checklists for bribery risk assessment and due diligence, a draft anti-corruption policy, and advice on anti-bribery provisions to be included in contracts with third parties, ASL declined to adopt the recommended measures, telling the external legal advisors that the company would be adopting “a different approach.”  The SFO concluded from its review of the facts that from July 2011, when the Bribery Act 2010 cameinto effect, until 2015, ASL did not have adequate anti-bribery procedures in place.

In entering the DPA, ASL has accepted three offenses of failure to prevent bribery, in contravention of section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010.  In addition to the company’s prompt disclosure and cooperation, the SFO took into account the absence of prior criminal, civil or regulatory enforcement actions against the company. The terms of the DPA require ASL to pay a financial penalty of £1,238,714.31, disgorgement in the amount of £990,971.45, and £750,000 towards the cost of the SFO’s investigation.  The company must also continue to cooperate with the authorities.  The DPA is effective for one year from its approval by Southwark Crown Court on October 30, 2020.

SFO news release | DPA  | Judgment | Statement of Facts 

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