FH Bertling fined for bribery in Angola

Following convictions last year related to a North Sea bribery scheme, FH Bertling company has now also been handed an £850,000 fine for a bribery scheme created to secure contracts in Angola.

The UK Serious Fraud Office recently last week said that FH Bertling – now in liquidation – had won and retained $20 million of freight forwarding services for the company, paying $350,000 in bribes.

According to SFO, the 4-year investigation and prosecution targeted FH Bertling’s involvement in an oil project in Angola, with employees bribing a local state oil company official to secure $20m worth of shipping contracts.

Commenting on the sentencing,Judge Hehir said: “This was a very serious piece of corruption indeed. It was planned and systematic.”

“The corruption of a public official brings huge risks of environmental and social harm as well as damaging and corrupting the commercial environment.”

According to SFO, the criminal investigation into corruption at FH Bertling began in September 2014, with the first charges announced in July 2016 and involved two separate cases – the ‘Jasmine’ and ‘Angola’ cases. In total, 13 individuals were charged as part of the SFO’s investigation, with 9 convicted of one or more charges and 4 individuals acquitted.

The investigation into FH Bertling’s business in Angola revealed that senior executives had conspired to pay bribes to an Angola state oil company agent to secure around $20m worth of shipping contracts. Joerg Blumberg, Dirk Juergensen, Marc Schweiger, Ralf Petersen (now deceased), Stephen Emler, Guiseppe Morreale, and the company pleaded guilty prior to trial.  One defendant, Peter Ferdinand was acquitted.

Schweiger, a German national living in Uganda, was the manager responsible for the Africa market when the corrupt activity took place between January 2004 and December 2006.

To remind, Emler and Morreale last year pleaded guilty for their part in a corrupt scheme to secure a ConocoPhillips freight forwarding contract, eventually worth over £16m, for FH Bertling as part of the ‘Jasmine’ North Sea oil exploration project, relating to misconduct between January 2010 and December 2013.

Apart from Emler and Morreale, Colin Bagwell, who was Managing Director/Chief Commercial Officer of FH Bertling, was last year found guilty of conspiring with Christopher Lane, the Logistics Lead at ConocoPhillips, in the overcharging scheme, relating to misconduct between January 2010 and December 2010.

SFO said that FH Bertling executives had paid over £350,000 in bribes and facilitation payments, to ensure their bid for the ConocoPhillips ‘Jasmine’ shipping contract was successful and separately to obtain assurance that inflated prices it charged for additional services were waived through by ConocoPhillips staff.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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