Hina Latif: [http://niqs.org.ng/construction-firm-fined-3-2m-over-uae-bribery-offence/] Ffeb. 22, 2016)
The construction services firm Sweett Group has been ordered to pay £2.25 million ($3.24m) after being convicted of a bribery offence that took place in the UAE, according to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The Telegraph reported that company was hit with a fine of £1.4m ($2m) and an £851,000 ($1.2m) confiscation order at Southwark Crown Court after it admitted that it had failed to prevent the bribery of Khaled Al Badie.
The UK-based company pleaded guilty in December 2015 to the charge of failing to prevent an act of bribery, which was intended to secure and retain a contract with a local insurance company, the SFO said.
David Green, Director of the SFO said: “Acts of bribery by UK companies significantly damage this country’s commercial reputation. This conviction and punishment, the SFO’s first under section 7 of the Bribery Act, sends a strong message that UK companies must take full responsibility for the actions of their employees and in their commercial activities act in accordance with the law.”
Al Badie is a member of a prominent family in the United Arab Emirates and was a member of the investment board of Al Ain Ahlia Insurance Company. It awarded a Sweett Group’s Middle East subsidiary a consultancy contract on the £63m ($88.7m) Rotana Hotel development.
The court heard how Sweett Group, which has now pulled out of the Middle East entirely, was slow to take action when its auditors KPMG flagged up irregularities in 2010.
The Telegraph reported that three years later the company’s Middle East subsidiary made payments to North Property Management, a shell company controlled by Al Badie for vague “hospitality development services” that prosecutors said were never delivered. The SFO launched an investigation after Sweett Group eventually reported itself.
The relevant conduct occurred between 1 December 2012 and 1 December 2015, and concerned the building of a hotel in Abu Dhabi, the SFO said.
The SFO said it was still investigating individuals in relation to the bribery of Al Badie. However, Al Badie denies any wrongdoing and has said that he has not been contacted by the SFO.
Sweett Group said late last year that it is exiting the Middle East region after admitting to the bribery charge.