Rahman Ravelli's Syedur Rahman, who represented one of the acquitted, outlines the case.

Three senior figures at British seismic equipment company Guralp Systems were cleared of charges that they plotted to bribe a South Korean public official with more than $1M over 13 years.

A jury at London's Southwark Crown Court acquitted the company's founder Cansun Guralp, sales head Natalie Pearce and former finance director Andrew Bell of conspiracy to make corrupt payments between 2002 and 2015 in order to secure contracts for the company.

Yet the company had accepted charges of conspiracy to make corrupt payments and failure to prevent bribery in reaching a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) two months earlier. Under the DPA, Guralp Systems agreed to pay just over £2M in disgorgement of profits and to improve its internal controls.

These events were due to the new chairman at Guralp Systems becoming suspicious about payments being made to Heon-Cheol Chi, an influential figure at Korea's Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources. The chairman notified the SFO and the US Department of Justice. Chi was convicted in the US in 2017 of laundering bribes.

The SFO charged Guralp, Pearce and Bell in 2018. But their acquittal by a jury prompted criticism of the integrity of the DPA process, although SFO Director Lisa Osofsky maintained that this DPA "ensures that the company will pay the price for the wrongdoing that occurred under its roof."

Some may view this case as being a success because of the disgorgement of profits. But this is another case in which the SFO has agreed a DPA with the company it is investigating only for the agency to then fail to secure convictions of individuals.

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