In December 2017, the SFO opened an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering in connection with the conduct of business by Alca Fasteners Ltd. This investigation included its officers, employees, agents and associated persons.
On the 30th May 2019, Carole Ann Hodson, the former owner of the company pleaded guilty to bribery in relation to a scheme to secure £12m of contracts. She was later sentenced to 2 years in prison and ordered to pay a confiscation order of £4,494,541.60 and costs to the SFO of £478,351. She was also disqualified from acting as a company director for 7 years.
Hodson paid over £300,000 in bribes to a purchasing manager employed by the Wurth Group of companies for a period of five years from 2011. The payments were made in brown envelopes, in monthly instalments and only ended when the purchasing manager in question retired. As a payback, the purchasing manager was promised 2.5 per cent of the total of every order the Wurth Group made to ALCA Fasteners.
False invoices were created to justify the payments, and each payment was recorded in the accounts of ALCA Fasteners as ‘sales commission payments’. Hodson would later lie to her auditors to disguise the true nature of the payments.
In 2017, Hodson sold the company and denied being involved in any unlawful conduct to the purchasers in order to maintain the company’s value.
The new owners informed the SFO of their suspicions, leading to the investigation and successful prosecution.
The SFO is an organisation that faces much government, media and public scrutiny. The high-profile cases that it deals with are often reported in the financial press and completing successful prosecutions is their raison d’etre.