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27 January 2012 | Angeline Albert
Four purchasing agents have been found
guilty of conspiring to corruptly obtain payments by supplying confidential
information about engineering contracts worth £66 million.
The men – Andrew Rybak (54) from Newbury,
Ronald Saunders (63) from Hook, Philip Hammond (56) from Brussels and Barry
Smith (70) from Farnham - worked for companies who acted as purchasing agents
for oil and gas engineering projects and conspired between 2001 and 2009 to take
bribes from bidders in exchange for insider information about contracts in
Iran, Egypt, Russia, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
The case was brought by the Serious Fraud
Office and City of London Police at Southwark Crown Court, where the men will
be sentenced on 30 January.
The SFO investigation, which began in 2008,
focused on five projects.
Engineering and construction firm
Snamprogetti provided procurement services for the construction of a styrene
monomer plant in Iran. Ronald Saunders worked for the firm as an agent between
2001 and 2003 and passed inside information about a contract to Hammond and
Rybak, who were co-directors of Strategic Project Services. They then passed
the information to a bidding firm, which agreed to pay the men if the contract
was awarded. The money was disguised as payments for “consultancy services”.
Saunders also worked as a contractor for J
P Kenny from 2005 to 2007, which provided procurement services for the
development of the QASR gas fields in Egypt. Saunders gave information to Rybak
to pass on to a bidder, and when the £3 million contract was awarded Rybak
received more than US$250,000 (£159,110), which he shared with Saunders.
In 2008, Foster Wheeler was hired by
Hydrogen Energy International to provide purchasing services for the Hydrogen
Power Abu Dhabi power plant. Both Rybak and Saunders were hired as contractors by
Hydrogen Energy between 2008 and 2009. Approaches were made to bidders by
Hammond, and Smith was also introduced to the conspiracy.
The SFO investigation began when one bidder
rejected information offered by Rybak, and reported it to the procurement
company. Charges were brought against the men in 2010.
In a statement the SFO said: “The companies
that provided procurement services for these projects helped the investigation
enormously. They were appalled at the apparent blatant disregard shown by these
defendants for the confidentiality and integrity of the project environments.”
Update, 1 February 2012
On 31 January Rybak, Saunders, Hammond and Smith were given jail sentences for their roles in the scams.
Rybak received five years in prison. Saunders was given three years and six months in jail. Hammond was sentenced to three years. Smith was given a sentence of 12 months in jail, suspended for 18 months, and 300 hours of unpaid work.
Rybak and Hammond were also disqualified from acting as company directors for ten years and confiscation actions are being taken against those two men and Saunders.
In passing sentence Judge Deborah Taylor told the defendants: “Your activities in connection with these conspiracies had little, if anything, to do with the interests of those engaged with the project, but were parasitic, leeching money for your benefit.”