A company director has just been convicted of corruption in respect of a potato supply contract worth £40 million a year. He will be sentenced next month along with a Sainsbury’s Food Buyer and a company Accounts Manager who had both previously pleaded guilty to corruption.

The corruption involved the Sainsbury’s Food Buyer receiving benefits totalling £4.9 million in connection with the grant of a lucrative contract to one of Britain’s largest potato suppliers. In addition to payments exceeding £1.5 million made into a Luxembourg bank account, he received perks including a twelve day trip to the Monaco Grand Prix costing £350,000 and the payment of bills totalling over £200,000 for food and accommodation at top London hotels.

As the offences were committed before the Bribery Act 2010 came into force, the Sainsbury’s Food Buyer could not be prosecuted under that Act. If the rewards received in this case were repeated today, they would almost certainly be caught by the Bribery Act. Whilst giving or receiving bona fide hospitality is not an offence, Ministry of Justice guidance makes it clear that hospitality and promotional or other similar business expenditure can be employed as bribes. The level of hospitality the Sainsbury’s Food Buyer received far exceeded the bona fide threshold.

Speaking outside Croydon Crown Court, Sue Pattern, head of the CPS Central Fraud Group said that the message is clear: “there is no place for corruption in British business…this case demonstrates a clear distinction between reasonable business hospitality and that which is criminally corrupt.”

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