Construction and professional services company Sweett Group plc has been sentenced and ordered to pay £2.25 million as a result of a conviction arising from a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into its activities in the United Arab Emirates.
The company pleaded guilty in December 2015 to a charge of failing to prevent an act of bribery intended to secure and retain a contract with Al Ain Ahlia Insurance Company (AAAI), contrary to Section 7(1)(b) of the Bribery Act 2010.
The relevant conduct occurred between 1 December 2012 and 1 December 2015.
Damage to commercial reputation
David Green CB QC, director of the SFO, commented: “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 2010, 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.”
His Honour Judge Beddoe described the offence as a system failure and said that the offending was patently committed over a period of time.
The SFO’s investigation into Sweett Group plc, which commenced on 14 July 2014, uncovered that its subsidiary company, Cyril Sweett International Limited, had made corrupt payments to Khaled Al Badie (the vice-chairman of the Board and chairman of the Real Estate and Investment Committee of AAAI) to secure the award of a contract with AAAI for the building of the Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The amount is broken down as £1.4 million in fines and £851,152.23 in confiscation. Additionally, £95,031.97 in costs were awarded to the SFO.
SFO’s investigations continuing
His Honour Judge Beddoe ordered the confiscation order to be paid within three months. Half of the fine is to be paid by 19 February 2017 and the other half by 19 February 2018.
The SFO’s investigation into individuals continues.
Contrary to announcements made by Khaled Al Badie, there has been no agreement between Sweett Group plc and the SFO.
The Serious Fraud Office is an independent Government department responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious and complex fraud, bribery and corruption. Director David Green CB QC exercises powers under the superintendence of the Attorney General. These powers are derived from the Criminal Justice Act 1987.