Out-Law News 1 min. read

Charges brought over alleged renewables corruption

A renewables company has been charged in the UK with failing to prevent bribery in a case concerning the alleged bribery by one of the company’s directors of a foreign public official.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) announced it had charged PV Energy Limited (PVE) with failing to prevent bribery, on 23 May.

PVE develops, builds, operates, and sells solar photovoltaic (PV) energy projects for project developers, investors, governments, and private businesses. PVE has entered into engineering, procurement and construction contracts relating to the supply of renewable energy and solar power in a number of countries outside of the UK.

The NCA alleged that one of PVE’s directors, Peter Virdee, also known as Hardip Singh, bribed Asot Michael, a former tourism minister in the government of Antigua and Barbuda, to benefit PVE. It has charged Virdee with bribing a foreign public official – and brought a separate charge of failure to prevent bribery against PVE in respect of the same offences.

Under section 7 of the UK Bribery Act 2010, it is an offence for a company to fail to prevent an act of bribery which was, at least in part, intended to benefit their organisation, by persons associated with it. Companies have a complete defence to the failing to prevent bribery offence if they can show that they had sufficient safeguards in place throughout the organisation designed to prevent persons associated with it from undertaking acts of bribery to benefit the organisation. 

“Whilst the outcome of the charges will only be determined in due course, the action by the NCA does highlight the risk of corruption charges being brought in relation to renewable energy projects,” said anti-corruption law expert Edward James of Pinsent Masons. “With the unprecedented large scale move towards clean energy, renewable energy will continue to be a focus area for law enforcement.”

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