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Education Briefing: Bribery Act 2010 Claims Third Individual

    • Education - Briefings

    22-05-2013

    23 April 2013 saw the third conviction for an individual under the Bribery Act 2010 (“the Bribery Act”) which came into force just under two years ago. Mr Yang Li, an overseas student and son of a Chinese government official, who had been studying for a Masters degree at the University of Bath, pleaded guilty to bribery under section 1 of the Act and possession of an imitation firearm.

    Mr Li had learned in late 2012 that his dissertation had been awarded a mark 3% short of a pass. Fearing failure of his course would require an extra year studying at the university and affect his visa arrangements, he set up a meeting on 23 November 2012 with his personal tutor, during which he offered the lecturer a cash bribe to uplift the mark to a passing grade. Bristol Crown Court heard that Mr Li told Prof. Andrew Graves “I am a business man” before placing £5,000 cash on the table and stating “you can keep the money if you give me a pass mark and I won’t bother you again”. Prof. Graves declined to accept the bribe and as Mr Li picked up his coat to leave, an air pistol loaded with six pellets fell from his pocket.

    Mr Li was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for bribery and six months for possession of an imitation firearm, to run concurrently, and ordered to pay £4,880 in costs. Judge Michael Longman said during sentencing,

    “Any form of corruption or incitement to a person in any manner amounts to a serious offence which must be taken seriously by the court.

    “You attempted to persuade a university professor to behave in such a way that if it had been successful you would have undermined the integrity of the universities in the UK and the legitimacy of degrees from universities here, the University of Bath in particular.

    “Your bid to achieve a pass mark by offering what was a bribe to your professor was ill conceived to the point of being a spectacular mistake and one which was doomed to fail from the start.

    “It was planned and deliberate and demonstrated a failure to comprehend the high standards adhered to by the public and private offices in the UK.”

    Mr Li’s conviction brings the total number of convictions against individuals to three, however the UK has yet to see prosecution of a corporate under the Act, so companies are still awaiting judicial interpretation the corporate offence under s7 of the Bribery Act and the Ministry of Justice’s Guidance on ‘adequate procedures’.

    Despite the lack of corporate convictions, the Serious Fraud Office is investigating numerous claims of bribery within and by corporations. It was reported recently that the SFO is making “very significant progress” on two of its biggest corruption investigations against corporates. New Director of the SFO, David Green QC, declined to give specific details but said that developments should be expected by the end of the year. In light of this, corporate bodies should not rest on their laurels and instead continue to establish and observe robust anti-bribery measures to prevent being amongst the first corporate scalps claimed by the Bribery Act.

     

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