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Sweett Group Ordered to Pay £2.25m in Bribery Case

Legal Expert Says Case Should Serve As A Wake-Up Call To Businesses


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Sweett Group Plc, has become the first company to be convicted under new bribery laws and has been ordered to pay about 2.25 million pounds at Southwark Crown Court. 

The British construction firm pleaded guilty to charges relating to them  paying bribes to win contracts in the Middle East, last December.

This afternoon Judge Martin Beddoe issued penalties on the firm, which included a 1.4 million-pound fine and the return of about 850,000 pounds in benefits derived from the illegal payments. 

The outcome of the case will be seen is a victory for the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO), who have faced criticism for failing to secure any corporate convictions under new bribery laws since they were enacted in 2011.

The judge said that Sweett Group had “wilfully ignored” two KPMG reports in 2011 and 2014 which raised concerns about weaknesses in the company’s systems and controls.

In a statement released after the sentencing, Douglas McCormick, Sweett Group’s chief executive officer, said: “We have strengthened our internal systems, controls and risk procedures, and refined our strategy, to ensure this company should never again fall victim to such conduct.” 

Sarah Wallace, Partner and Head of Regulatory & Criminal Investigations at law firm Irwin Mitchell said that the outcome of the case should prompt businesses to ensure their anti-bribery compliance programmes were up to standard. 

Expert Opinion
"If boards are fearful that their business’s reputation will be tarnished by a corporate criminal conviction, and their bonuses might be slashed by paying criminal fines, then this sentence may motivate bosses to kick the tyres of their anti-bribery compliance programmes.

"But if those at the top are only motivated by the fear that they personally could be imprisoned then this corporate sentence and confiscation order may not set alarm bells ringing.

"Overall, this is positive news for the SFO and any recent speculation that the SFO’s multi-disciplinary team of lawyers, investigators and forensic experts could be disbanded is unsettling for the fight against financial crime.

"The Government recently decided not to extend the corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery to other financial crimes. If they had the offence then companies and the boardroom would have a greater reason to fear the SFO."
Sarah Wallace, Partner

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