Ex-PWS boss Julian Messent jailed for 21 months for making corrupt payments to Costa Rican officials

Former PWS International chief executive Julian Messent was today sentenced to 21 months in jail after admitting making or authorising corrupt payments of almost US$2m.

Messent made 41 corrupt payments to Costa Rican officials in the state insurance company, Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) and the national electricity and telecommunications provider Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), between February 1999 and June 2002.

Messent, who became chief executive of PWS in 2003, was ordered to pay £100,000 compensation within 28 days to the Republic of Costa Rica or serve an additional 12 months imprisonment if he fails to do so.

Following a joint investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London Police which opened in 2006, Messent pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to two counts of making corrupt payments.

The sentence passed was 21 months imprisonment on each count to run concurrently. He also asked for 39 similar offences to be taken into consideration.

At the time, Messent was head of the property (Americas) division at PWS and responsible for securing and maintaining contracts for reinsurance in the Central and South America regions. PWS (now owned by THB) acted as broker on behalf of INS, which in turn was the insurer for ICE.

The SFO said it is involved in ongoing proceedings against those alleged to have taken the bribes; including Costa Rican officials, their wives and associated companies, in the Republic of Costa Rica.

Messent, who was charged in April 2010, has also been disqualified from acting as a company director for five years.

In passing sentence, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, quoting Lord Justice Thomas said: "It is no mitigation to say others do it [pay bribes] or that it is the way of doing business anyone minded to do it should be deterred from doing so." Judge Rivlin also commended the SFO and the City of London Police saying that "the investigation has been carried out to the highest possible standard."

SFO director Richard Alderman said: "This case shows how determined we are to pursue businessmen who bribe. Working with agencies in other countries is a key feature of our approach which can result in action being taken against both sides of the bribe. This case is also a good example of how an early plea agreement can bring a swift resolution."