June 19, 2024

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Two men acquitted of corruption in Saudi defence contract case

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Two former middlemen accused of bribing Saudi Arabian officials to secure lucrative defence contracts with the UK government were acquitted of corruption by a London jury in a long-running investigation, with one found guilty of misconduct in public office.

Jeffrey Cook, 67, former managing director of GPT Special Project Management, and John Mason, 81, an accountant and part-owner of some of GPT’s subcontractor companies, were acquitted at Southwark Crown Court of one count of corruption between January 2007 and December 2012 in relation to an alleged nearly £10mn in bribes paid to Saudi officials to win business.

But Cook, a former employee at the UK Ministry of Defence, was found guilty on Wednesday of one count of misconduct in public office between September 2004 and November 2008. He was accused of receiving about £70,000 in kickbacks in the form of cash and cars while he was an employee at the MoD.

Cook will be sentenced in April. The maximum sentence is unlimited, though counsel have raised issues with his health. The jury was unanimous on his conviction.

GPT pleaded guilty in 2021 to one count of corruption between December 2008 and July 2010 and paid a penalty of about £30mn.

The split verdict is a blow for the UK Serious Fraud Office, which prosecuted the case. Its initial trial of the defendants collapsed in 2022 when further information came to light from the MoD. The verdicts — delivered after the judge told the jury on Wednesday that he would accept a majority rather than unanimous decision — ends the longest-running criminal investigation in the SFO’s current caseload and a probe that has been fraught with diplomatic complications. The SFO first opened its case in 2012 after two whistleblowers from GPT raised concerns about payments by the company.

The agency charged GPT, Cook and Mason in 2020, after waiting years…



2024-03-06 11:58:22

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