International anti-bribery case wins UEL financial crime expert a major government award
Dr Costantino Grasso worked with Serious Fraud Office to resolve complex bribery case originating in Tanzania
A University of East London (UEL) expert in financial crime and corporate governance has received a prestigious industry award for a pioneering investigation with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Working as part of a team of legal experts, UEL lecturer Dr Costantino Grasso used his skills as a financial crime analyst to resolve a complex bribery case in Tanzania.
It involving Standard Bank Tanzania and its London-based partner, Standard Bank plc, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the Tanzanian government, and Enterprise Growth Market Advisors, a local third party company which was allegedly used as the vehicle for giving a bribe of US $6 million paid in cash.
“This case gave me the invaluable opportunity to put into practice the theoretical knowledge of financial crime and corporate governance I have gained so far as an academic,” he said.
Dr Grasso was responsible for investigating the anti-bribery and corruption policies, procedures and culture at ICBC as well as drafting improved governance solutions for the bank to comply with.
Rather than go to court, Dr Grasso and the SFO team resolved the case via a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) between the SFO and the bank, the first such case in England.
A DPA is a voluntary alternative to court in which a prosecutor agrees to grant amnesty in exchange for the defendant agreeing to fulfil certain requirements.
This was the SFO's first application for a DPA to be approved by the judiciary, and the first time a legal entity was charged in England and Wales with the offence of ‘failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery', as provided by section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010.
Dr Grasso and the rest of the team collected the UK Government Legal Department's Prosecutor of the Year Award from the Solicitor General at a ceremony on 23 November.
"I am very glad that our team received such a prestigious award. It took a great deal of effort to achieve such a positive result,” he said.
“The judging panel concluded that the successful outcomes of the Standard Bank case were truly ground-breaking and set a precedent of how to approach such cases in the future, and the Attorney General agreed.”
Dr Grasso, who lectures in financial crime, corporate governance, and corporate social responsibility at UEL, said criminal law had proved to be highly inefficient for the purpose of preventing corporate crime.
“The reasons behind such a failure lie in the fact that criminal law was originally conceived and developed to be applied to natural persons, not to legal entities,” he said.
“As a result, a compelling need exists to develop alternative measures specifically designated for fighting corporate crime.”
Dr Grasso’s team was also recognised at the Global Investigations Review awards in New York, winning the ‘Most Important Development in the Practice or Law of International Investigations Award’ earlier this year.
Dr Grasso’s Peaks and Troughs of the English Deferred Prosecution Agreement: The Lesson Learned from the First-Ever DPA between the SFO and ICBC SB Plc can be read in the Journal of Business Law 388-408