Failure to prevent bribery catches up with Sweett, ICBC Standard Bank

An independent provider of construction and infrastructure management services has admitted that it failed to prevent staff from offering bribes in the Middle East.

The Sweett Group operates services in the Asia Pacific, Europe and the United States.

According to the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Sweett Group acknowledges that its employees offered to award an American architecture firm a USD$100 million construction contract for a hospital in Morocco if the architects agreed to bribe an Arab Emirates official.

The company in effect admitted to breaching Section 7 of the UK Bribery Act which recognises the failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery as an offence.

The same offence was recently used for the first time by any UK prosecutor in a case involving allegations against ICBC Standard Bank of overseas bribery.

On Monday 1 December, ICBC Standard Bank finally settled its case in the UK by agreeing to pay USD$33 million. Earlier this year, it already agreed to pay $4.2 million to resolve similar charges in the United States by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) in relation to the same case.

These cases highlight how widely the UK Bribery Act’s enforcement extends around the world, and how severe the penalties are for companies that fail to prevent bribery on their watch.

The Sweett Group case in particular sounds an alarm for the engineering and construction industry: unless you adopt the necessary due diligence measures, you remain exposed to a full range of bribery and third party risks.

Source: FCPA Blog

Talk to GRC Solutions about our Anti-Bribery and Third Party Risk courses, as well as our broader Salt Compliance training library.