British company Weir admits breaching Iraq sanctions

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British engineering group Weir said Monday it will plead guilty to breaching UN sanctions over the oil for food programme in Iraq and pay a confiscation order and a fine of almost 22 million dollars.

The Glasgow-based firm, which makes pumps and valves for the oil and gas industry, said in a statement it had agreed to pay a confiscation order worth 13.9 million pounds (16.5 million euros, 21.9 million dollars).

"Weir today announces that it has agreed with the Crown Office in Scotland to plead guilty to two charges of breaching UN sanctions in connection with a number of UN-sanctioned Oil for Food programme contracts awarded between 2000 and 2002," it said.

It expects to be formally charged later Monday ahead of a hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh on Tuesday, when a fine would also be decided.

Lord Smith, the chairman of Weir, said: "What happened was wrong.

"As I said in 2004, I am bitterly disappointed that this went on within the Weir Group. Since 2004, when we first disclosed the issue, we have radically overhauled procedures.

"A strong ethics culture is in place across the group and it is the reference point for everything we do."

Weir discovered in 2004 that it had made 3.1 million pounds of payments to Iraq through an agent who arranged contracts for the supply of pump equipment and spare parts for clean water supply, oil field water injection and pipelines.

It immediately launched internal and external investigations into all its contracts under the oil for food programme.

The programme was introduced to enable Iraq to sell its oil despite UN sanctions, provided the money was used for humanitarian needs.

© 2010 AFP

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