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Friday
Oct202017

UK enforcement: No jail for Bertling managers after guilty pleas for Angola bribes

Three former senior employees of the F.H Bertling group who pleaded guilty to overseas bribery were given suspended jail sentences Friday in London.

Joerg Blumberg, Dirk Juergensen and Marc Schwieger were each given a 20 month sentence, suspended for two years, and a £20,000 ($26,000) fine.

They were also disqualified from being company directors for five years.

Sentencing was at the Southwark Crown Court.

F.H Bertling Limited and six individuals, including the three sentenced Friday, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make corrupt payments to an agent of the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol.

The bribes paid from 2004 to 2006 helped Bertling win and keep a freight and forwarding contract worth about $20 million.

Schweiger, a German national living in Uganda, was the manager responsible for the Africa market when the bribery.

Blumberg worked as Group CFO.

And Juergensen was the Managing Director of the UK subsidiary F.H. Bertling Ltd.

Blumberg and Juergensen are German nationals living in Germany.

All three pleaded guilty in March this year.

In September last year, two other Bertling employees pleaded guilty. Jose Morreale, 62, and Stephen Emler, 49, are scheduled to be sentenced in September 2018.

A sixth individual, Ralf Petersen, also pleaded guilty but is now deceased, the SFO said.

F.H. Bertling Limited pleaded guilty in August.

The company is a UK-based subsidiary of the Germany-headquartered Bertling Group. The group provides global logistics services through 65 subsidiaries in 35 countries with over 1,100 employees.

A final defendant, Peter Ferdinand, 78, was acquitted by a jury at Southwark Crown Court on September 21, according to the SFO.

He was formerly a managing director of F.H. Bertling. He said he'd left the company before the corrupt payments occurred.

At Friday's sentencing, Judge Jeffrey Pegden said:“Each defendant] played a significant role in the fraudulent activity,  which required discussion and planning and was pursued for a year in total for the company’s financial gain.”

The SFO investigation started in September 2014.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.