The Serious Fraud Office has finally bared its teeth: Sweett Group plc has earned itself the unenviable accolade of being the first corporate to have been convicted of an offence under the Bribery Act 2010 (“the Act”).
Following its guilty plea in December 2015 Sweett, an independent provider of professional services to the construction industry, has been fined a total of £2.25 million pounds for failing to prevent one of its subsidiary companies from paying bribes of nearly £700,000 in order to win a contract to construct a Dubai hotel - an offence under section 7 of the Act. Sweett reported itself to the SFO following an internal investigation which it commissioned after allegations of bribery and corruption emerged in the Wall Street Journal in 2013. Notwithstanding its self-reporting, the presiding judge assessed Sweett’s culpability to be in the highest category by virtue of the length of time over which the offences had been committed, the apparent failure by Sweett to implement adequate procedures following the introduction of the Act and a failure to take note of concerns raised by Sweetts’ own accountants, KPMG.
Concern has been expressed by some commentators that it appeared the authorities lacked the necessary appetite to actively enforce the Act. This decision indicates that this is not the case and should serve as a timely reminder to corporates to ensure that their risks of exposure to bribery and corruption have been properly assessed, that their policies are appropriate and that their staff are properly trained in those policies.
If you would like to discuss your company’s own anti-bribery policies or to find out more about how the Corporate team can help you please contact Robert Rice on 0118 952 7263 or email [email protected].
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