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01 April 2014

SFO succeeds in bribery case against individual

There have been a number of investigations and cases brought by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the past year and although most have been against businesses, one case was against an individual which is worthy of mention.

More often than not investigations are brought against legal entities but in the case of Yang Li in April 2013, the SFO brought proceedings under the UK Bribery Act 2010 against an individual.

Yang Li was a student at the University of Bath who received a 37% mark for his dissertation against a requirement of a 40% pass mark. Unhappy with the decision, Mr Li visited his tutors to enquire how the problem could be solved. 

His tutors said there were three options; appeal against the marking, resubmit the dissertation or accept the decision and leave the course.

Mr Li suggested a fourth option by placing £5,000 in cash on the table in front of the tutors saying "you can keep the money if you give me a pass mark". 

The tutors refused the bribe and asked Mr Li to leave, but as he did so, in picking up his coat and putting his money away, an air pistol fell from his pocket onto the floor.

When the case was brought to court, notwithstanding the suggestion of his lawyer that Mr Li happened to be carrying £5,000 for weekend spending money and put it on the table on impulse, and that he was carrying the pistol only because he was about to go for target practice, the court sentenced Mr Li to 12 months in prison with a further 6 months prison sentence concurrently for the firearm offence.

The decision highlights that a bribe is a bribe whether it is successful or not, and that the UK Bribery Act applies to foreigners as much as it does UK citizens.

This article was written by Rhys Novak.

For more information please contact Rhys on +44 (0)20 7427 6563 or