Bribery Act & Proceeds of Crime - Written by on Thursday, December 3, 2015 5:13 - 0 Comments

Hat trick for the SFO: First Section 7 Bribery Act Admission outside of a DPA* by Sweett Group PLC

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SweettSFO investigation

We continue to co-operate with the SFO.  The SFO investigation with respect to Sweett Group into the allegations made in the Wall Street Journal in June 2013 is at an end.  During the process of our own investigations two related contracts within the Middle East were identified as suspicious and were duly reported to the SFO.  This has led to an admission by Sweett Group of an offence under Section 7(1) of the UK Bribery Act 2010 (failing to prevent an associated person bribing another to obtain or retain business for the company).  Subsequent prosecution is expected, with the likely outcome of a fine, the quantum of which cannot be ascertained at the present time.   Importantly, an offence under Section 7 (1) does not attract a mandatory debarment from public sector tendering under EU/UK law.”

Read the Sweett Group PLC interim financial statements posted with the London Stock Exchange yesterday.

The SFO Press Office issued the following release:

“Sweett Group plc admits to bribery offence

02 December 2015

The Serious Fraud Office can confirm that Sweett Group plc has admitted an offence under Section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 regarding conduct in the Middle East.

The SFO announced on 14 July 2014 that it had opened an investigation into Sweett Group plc in relation to its activities in the UAE and elsewhere. The press release concerning the opening of the investigation can be found here.

Further details will be made available when the matter comes before court, at a date still to be determined.”

Noting that the move is an important step and the beginning of closure the CEO of Sweett Douglas McCormick, commented:

“I am encouraged by the progress made in my first nine months as CEO….

“…We have also announced this morning the admission by the Group of an offence under Section 7(1) of the UK Bribery Act 2010 in relation to two related contracts entered into in 2013 in the Middle East, identified by the Group and reported to the SFO.   Today’s announcement brings closure on the Middle East legacy issues a step closer, allowing the Group to progress unencumbered in the future.  This is an important next step in the strategic turnaround of the business…”

Hat trick for the SFO

It’s been a busy week for the SFO.

In a hat trick:

Monday saw the First DPA under new DPA rules coupled with the first outing of the failure to prevent bribery offence under Section 7 of the Bribery Act.

Hot on its heels, Wednesday brought with it the first admission of the failure to prevent bribery offence under Section 7 of the Bribery Act outside of a DPA by Sweett Group PLC.

Readers will be well aware that it was Section 7 of the Bribery Act which was the sea change that came with the passing into law of the Bribery Act in 2010 and its entry into force in 2011.  In spite of (some) hollow claims to the contrary law enforcement is actively seeking to enforce it.  These first cases are just the beginning.

Watch this space for some further thoughts from us over the coming days and weeks over what all this means for UK PLC and elsewhere, including some detailed observations about the DPA approved on Monday.

Declaration of interest*

The author, Barry Vitou is leading a team including Anne-Marie Ottaway and Harriet Edwards of Pinsent Masons LLP representing Sweett Group PLC in connection with this matter.

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