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Court of Appeal Blazes Trail in Fight against Corporate Corruption

The global fight against corporate corruption is gathering pace and English judges are leading the way. In one case that proved the point, the Court of Appeal ruled that £4.4 million held in a UK bank account had rightly been frozen as the suspected proceeds of crime.

The money represented the proceeds of sale of 800,000 shares in a Canadian company that had been awarded valuable oil concessions in an African country. It was said to have been generated by a series of corrupt transactions that involved people and companies connected to diplomatic staff at that country’s embassy in Washington DC. The shares had been allotted at a nominal price but were later sold, after the concessions were awarded, at a multi-million-pound profit.

The woman who formerly owned the shares – who was alleged to have held them as a nominee – pointed to a Canadian court order that was said to preclude the Serious Fraud Office from contending that the money was recoverable property for the purposes of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Her arguments, however, failed to persuade a judge, who granted a property freezing order in respect of the money.

In dismissing her appeal, the Court noted that the reasons for the withdrawal of forfeiture proceedings in Canada had never been explained. The order was plainly not the product of an informed decision-making process in which the relevant facts had been considered or weighed. The order was thus binding only on the parties to the Canadian proceedings and not as against the whole world.