Fraud watchdog could 'phone tap' corrupt firms

27 August 2009

28 August 2009 | Jake Kanter

The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is to warn some of the country's biggest construction firms not to brush overseas corruption "under the carpet".

SFO director Richard Alderman will write to around 100 building companies on 1 September reminding them of their responsibility not to use bribery to win deals abroad.

The SFO wants construction firms to alert it to suspicions of staff using bribery to win contracts. If companies cooperate, it will place them under surveillance and intercept phone calls to investigate.

With this cooperation, money could be recovered using civil action rather than criminal prosecutions, the SFO added.

It follows the case of engineering firm Mabey & Johnson (M&J), which last month became the first UK company to be prosecuted for corruption relating to overseas contracts.

M&J, which supplies steel bridging, pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 10 July to charges of trying to influence buyers in Jamaica and Ghana to win public contracts between 1993 and 2001.

The firm also admitted breaking UN sanctions when it bid for contracts in the Iraq oil for food programme between 2001 and 2002 (News, 23 July 2009).



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