In a rare prosecution under section 1 of the Bribery Act 2010, Ben Isaacs has secured convictions against two defendants for offering bribes to bank employees. The corrupt payments were intended to induce members of the bank’s insolvency team to divert funds from the bank’s internal suspense accounts, which held in excess of £3bn. A suspense account is an account used by a bank to temporarily hold money where there is uncertainty about where that money should end up, for example if the funds are the subject of a legal dispute or if the transaction is suspected to be fraudulent, or if the wrong details for the receiving account have been supplied. Funds are placed in to a suspense account pending investigation into where they should be allocated and once that is determined the funds are transferred onwards.
One of the defendants, a former employee of the bank, had acquired knowledge of the relevant account numbers prior to leaving his role. Working with others, he offered his former colleagues between £10,000 and £25,000 in cash to make regular £200,000 transfers via Inter Bank Payments (IBPs) and provided them with the necessary account details. The jury heard evidence of the defendants’ intention to reconcile the fraudulent transactions by relying on a network of associates in India and Hong Kong.
The offers of bribes came to light in the course of an internal bank investigation during which the intended recipients of the corrupt payments were interviewed by the bank. Following the Court of Appeal decision in ENRC the notes of those interviews might arguably have been privileged, but were ultimately provided to the Police and subsequently disclosed to the defence.
The DPP gave their consent to the prosecution and Ben was instructed by the Specialist Fraud Division of the CPS.