British firm fined for corruption, breaching Iraq sanctions

26th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

A British company was fined GBP 3.5 million Friday after pleading guilty to overseas corruption and paying money to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime in violation of the "oil for food" programme.

London - A British company was fined GBP 3.5 million Friday after pleading guilty to overseas corruption and paying money to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime in violation of the "oil for food" programme.

Mabey and Johnson, who make steel bridges, became the first company to be convicted in Britain of corruption overseas, after admitting two charges of corruption and one of breaching sanctions in August.

Its new managing director Peter Lloyd said the firm's past dealings were "a matter of a deep regret" but said it had made a "fresh start".

The company admitted paying GBP 365,000 (EUR 400,000, USD 580,000) to the Iraqi regime in 2001 and 2002, in violation of United Nations sanctions under the oil-for-food programme.

Mabey and Johnson -- owned by one of the wealthiest families in Britain -- also admitted using bribes to win public contracts in Ghana and Jamaica between 1993 and 2001.

A court ordered the firm to pay a total of 6.61 million pounds, which included a GBP 3.5-million fine, compensation to the countries affected, legal costs and paying for an independent body to oversee its future conduct.

Lloyd said the sums "will hurt the company and they are a real punishment".

A lawyer for Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO), John Hardy, told Southwark Crown Court in south London that Mabey and Johnson had paid more than GBP 1.1 million in bribes in Iraq, Ghana and Jamaica, as well as Angola, Madagascar, Mozambique and Bangladesh.

He said these bribes helped it win contracts worth 60 million pounds.

Richard Alderman, SFO director, praised the "landmark outcome" to the case, which he said had been made easier by the full cooperation of the firm's new management.

Five of its directors have stepped down since 2008, and it was Mabey and Johnson who voluntarily disclosed the corruption offences to the SFO.

"This is a landmark outcome -- the first conviction in this country of a company for overseas corruption and for breaking the UN Iraq sanctions and, satisfyingly, achieved quickly," Alderman said.

British courts have had jurisdiction over crimes of bribery committed overseas by British nationals and UK-registered companies since February 2002.

The oil-for-food programme, which ran from 1996 until 2003, allowed Iraq to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods which the country lacked because of tight UN sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

AFP/Expatica

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