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Mishcon de Reya secures acquittal of executive in SFO bribery case following deferred prosecution agreement by corporates

Posted on 25 January 2023

Following a 15-week bribery and money laundering trial at Southwark Crown Court, our client, Robb Simms-Davies, was unanimously acquitted of all charges on Tuesday 24 January 2023.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had charged our client and two other executives with bribery and money laundering offences relating to payments of hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees. The fees were alleged to have been paid to influence the outcome of tender processes relating to valuable building projects that were the subject of bids by Bluu Solutions Limited and Tetris Projects Limited, both subsidiaries of Jones Lang LaSalle Inc (JLL). The prosecution followed the approval in July 2021 of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement between the SFO and the two JLL subsidiaries, in which the companies had agreed to pay a total of £2,510,065.

The position of our client was always that the payments in question represented legitimate introduction fees, which were commonplace in the industry. In the course of the proceedings, we were able to substantially narrow the issues through engagement with the SFO, including securing agreement that the payment of introduction fees was an entirely legitimate practice, however, the prosecution continued to allege that the indicted payments nevertheless represented bribes.

Following successful half time submissions on behalf of our client, the Judge directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts in respect of three of the counts in December, with the remaining counts left to the jury, who returned unanimous not guilty verdicts on Tuesday, after only a few hours of deliberation.  

Johanna Walsh, Partner at Mishcon de Reya, who acted for Mr Simms-Davies, said:

"I am delighted for my client who is now able to move on with his life, six years after the SFO first began its investigation. This is a case which had serious evidential deficiencies from the very beginning and was never able to support the allegations made by the SFO. The reality is that the case should never have been allowed to come to court. and It is extremely disappointing that the SFO was unable to stand back and recognise the failings in its case before this point – in the end, the jury took only a few hours to return these unanimous verdicts.

These verdicts represent yet another failed prosecution by the SFO of individuals arising out of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. After twelve DPAs, the SFO has still not managed to secure the conviction of any of the individuals through whom they established the corporate's liability for the purposes of the DPA. This inevitably begs yet more serious questions about the approach of the SFO to the DPA system and the capability of the organisation to fulfil its remit to pursue the most serious and complex cases."

Christopher Gribbin, Managing Associate at Mishcon de Reya, who also acted for Mr Simms-Davies, said:

"The central evidential issue in the case was whether the payments in question represented legitimate introduction fees or whether they were paid to corruptly influence tender processes. Notwithstanding a body of agreed evidence to support the frequent payment of legitimate introduction fees across the industry, the SFO pursued a case theory that these payments represented corrupt aberrations, something which simply wasn’t supported by the facts. I am delighted for Mr Simms-Davies that the jury returned unanimous verdicts so quickly and I hope he is now able to move on with his life.'

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