28 September 2009 | Jake Kanter
British engineering firm Mabey & Johnson (M&J) has been fined £3.5 million after pleading guilty to overseas corruption.
M&J tried to influence buyers in Jamaica and Ghana when bidding for public contracts between 1993 and 2001, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard on 10 July.
As well as the fine, a judge at London's Southwark Crown Court on Friday ordered the firm to pay a further £3.1 million in compensation costs, confiscation of profits and prosecution fees, as well as the cost of establishing an independent auditor to monitor its future conduct.
The company also broke UN sanctions when it bid for contracts in the Iraq oil-for-food programme between 2001 and 2002 (Web news 10 July).
M&J managing director Peter Lloyd said the fines would hurt the company and were "a real punishment", but insisted it had "wiped the slate clean".
He added: "Ethics are at the heart of our business, and new whistle-blowing procedures have been introduced. All of our sales and associated systems have been reviewed and will be regularly updated, while all relevant staff have been extensively trained or retrained. We have made a fresh start."
It is the first UK business to be prosecuted for corruption overseas in a "landmark outcome" for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Richard Alderman, SFO director, said: "The offences are serious but the company has played its part positively by recognising the unacceptability of past business practices and by coming forward to report them and engage constructively with the SFO. I urge other companies who might see some parallels for them to come and talk to us and have the matter dealt with quickly and fairly."