This case centred on the conduct of a senior manager (NC) at Coca Cola Enterprises UK Limited (CC), who had the responsibility of subcontracting service work at various CC premises. NC’s role was “pivotal”. The court remarked that he used CC as a “source which could be routinely tapped at will”.
NC not only influenced the tendering process for the service works, but also personally led the charge when identifying appropriate contractors. In this instance, the three contracting companies that were favoured were Boulting Group Limited (BGL, now trading as WABGS), Tritec Systems Limited (TSL) and Electron Systems Limited (ESL).
The scheme would not have been possible without input from individuals at each of the three companies. As part of CC’s internal investigation into the wrongdoing and the police investigation, it was revealed that a former director of TSL (GH) and a former contract manager at BGL (PK) were key to NC’s plans.
As an interesting side note, PK reached a s.73 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 agreement (s.73 agreement) with the prosecution – one that would have seen him give evidence against an unnamed former co-defendant (a former BGL director and shareholder) whom the prosecution offered no evidence against during the proceedings. Had the prosecution not taken this stance and the matter proceeded to trial, PK would have provided an inside account of the agreement(s) cemented with the former director. Ultimately, this did not happen, but the court noted that the s.73 agreement had “significant power” in GH’s mitigation.
As part of the scheme, NC provided the three companies with sensitive and confidential data over a nine-year period. This was designed to assist each company’s bid for contracts with CC. The consequence of this was that a disadvantaged competitor would have had no idea that their carefully worked proposal was being shared with other bidders, removing any commercial confidentiality.
Such was the level of corruption that on occasions ‘fresh air contracts’ were awarded under NC’s instruction where there was no substance to any of the agreements.
As with schemes of this nature, there is always a kick-back. NC furthered his own personal gain by accepting a myriad of benefits, which included cash, free tickets to sporting events and entertainment events for his efforts. NC’s local football club (where he was president) was also sponsored as part of the benefits that NC received from directing contracts to the three companies. A takeaway point with this aspect of the offending is that, so far as the BA is concerned, a benefit is not one that may be solely reflected by cash and may be attained via other means (in NC’s instant, sponsoring a local football club).
In total, NC obtained an overall benefit of at least £950,000 in bribes from his relationship with BGL and a further £600,000 from his relationship with TSL and ESL. Payments to NC were made via a shell company that he controlled with family members, or to a separate company where he was a partner.
The scheme was exposed in 2013 when BGL accidentally attached a confidential CC document in an email to CC, comparing BGL’s prices to that of a rival. The email was only meant to detail BGL’s travel expenses for CC to reimburse. This errant email led to CC commencing an internal investigation, which was followed up with civil action and the ensuing criminal investigation/prosecution.