Bribery and corruption offence
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has confirmed that Sweett Group plc has admitted an offence under Section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 regarding conduct in the Middle East. The offence relates to the charge of “failing to prevent an associated person bribing another to obtain or retain business for the company”.
It is a full defence for an organisation to prove that despite a particular case of bribery it nevertheless had adequate procedures in place to prevent persons associated with it from bribing. The company’s admission of the offence suggests such sufficient procedures may not have been in place in this instance.
Sweett Group provides professional services for the construction and management of building and infrastructure projects. It’s understood that the offence relates to two contracts from 2013.
The SFO first 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 Bribery Act 2010 applies to UK businesses with operations anywhere in the world and is not just restricted to business undertakings in the UK. The maximum penalties under the Act are an unlimited fine and imprisonment of up to ten years.
This case will be of interest to all UK businesses, and provides a useful reminder to ensure that bribery and corruption are taken seriously. The six principles that apply to managing bribery and corruption are set out in official guidance produced by the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ): view here, underlining the importance of adopting a policy, communicating it to all employees, and providing training as appropriate.