Griffiths Energy fined $10.35-million in bribery case; Calgary CEO says company ‘blew the whistle’ on themselves by Daryl Slade, January 25, 2013, Calgary Herald
Court of Queens Bench Justice Scott Brooker said in accepting a joint submission by Griffiths lawyer Kristine Robidoux and Crown prosecutor Bob Sigurdson that bribing of a foreign official by a Canadian company is a serious matter.The bribe involved payment of $2 million to the wife of the former ambassador, plus a number of founders shares, said Brooker. As I said in R. vs. Niko (precedent case), such bribes, besides being an embarrassment to all Canadians, prejudices Canadas efforts to foster, promote effective governmental and commercial relations with other countries.Whereas, here the bribe is to an official of a developing nation, it undermines the bureaucratic or governmental infrastructure for which the bribed official works. Accordingly, the penalty proposed must be sufficient to show the courts denunciation of such conduct, as well as provide deterrents to other such offenders.
Griffiths was the second company in two years to face international corruption charges and agreed to pay a larger fine than Niko, which was fined $9.5 million in June 2011 under the same section of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Griffiths admitted it paid a $2-million bribe and gave exclusive opportunity to purchase some four million founders shares to Chads ambassador, his wife and two others, hoping for help to attain exclusive drilling rights to two blocks of land in the African country. The bribe was paid into the ambassadors wifes Washington bank account under the name Chad Oil Consulting LLC. Gary Guidry, president and CEO of Griffiths, said outside court the company regrets the actions of past management and the past board of directors. The actions were wrong and inappropriate, he said. We blew the whistle, we co-operated with authorities, because thats the way our management team and our board of directors do business. We do credit the country of Chad for setting up a transparency process and the extensive investigation by Gowlings, led by Kris (Robidoux, shows the inappropriate consulting agreements had nothing to do with the granting of licences. We do believe todays judgment addresses all shareholders concerns. Were glad to have this behind us and ready to move on to do what we do best oil and gas exploration and production. … RCMP Insp. Greg Shield, head of the Calgary commercial crimes section, said it sets a precedent as the first case of its kind as far as voluntary disclosure for corruption in Canada. He said it is a very complex case and the fact it is international in scope, would have been delayed. Thus, Griffiths actions saved much investigation work. … It sets a positive message in that we are investigating these kinds of complaints and that coming forward voluntarily, as the judge mentioned, the fines are more favourable. … Janet Keeping of Calgary, president and chair of Transparency International Canada, said when Griffiths pleaded guilty earlier this week shes satisfied with the two negotiated penalties. I think were beginning to see Canadian courts taking violations of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act seriously, she said. The fine in the Niko case and now the fine in the Griffiths case are not insignificant amounts of money so I think we have to be pleased. She agreed it wasnt necessary for Griffiths to be placed on probation as all of its directors and senior executives have changed since the time of the offence. [Emphasis added]