Sweett Group plc has been ordered to pay £2.25m as a result of an investigation and conviction into its activities in the United Arab Emirates.
The construction and professional services company pleaded guilty last December to a charge of failing to prevent an act of bribery intended to secure and retain a contract with Al Ain Ahlia Insurance Company (AAAI), breaching the Bribery Act 2010.
Sweet Group has been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court and ordered to pay £2.25m, which is made up of a £1.4m fine and a £851,000 confiscation order. Costs of £95,000 were also awarded to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The SFO investigation into Sweett Group PLC began in 2014. It uncovered that Sweet Group's subsidiary company, Cyril Sweett International Limited, had made corrupt payments to Khaled Al Badie, the vice chairman of the board and chairman of the Real Estate and Investment Committee of AAAI, to secure the award of a contract for the building of the Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
This occurred between December 2012 and December 2015. His Honour Judge Beddoe described the offence as a system failure and said the offending was patently committed over a period of time.
Director of the SFO David Green said that acts of bribery by UK companies significantly damaged the country’s commercial reputation.
“This conviction and punishment, the SFO’s first under section seven of the Bribery Act, sends a strong message that UK companies must take full responsibility for the actions of their employees and in their commercial activities act in accordance with the law.”
Sweet Group has since closed its Middle East business and chief executive Douglas McCormick said that the company had been transformed over the last year with the appointment of a new leadership team, which had successfully addressed key issues facing the business.
“The group has delivered on a number of strategic objectives including the sale of the APAC and India business, resolution of the SFO investigation, withdrawal from the Middle East market and the reorganisation of the business into five regions,” said McCormick.
“We have strengthened our internal systems, controls and risk procedures, and refined our strategy, focusing on profitability and cash flow. We are excited by the opportunities we see ahead in our core markets the UK, Europe and North America, and we look to the future with confidence.”
A spokesperson for Khaled Al Badie said: “Mr Al Badie strongly denies any wrongdoing. Any engagement was under a properly constituted legal contract… He has no knowledge of the motivation behind the agreement between Sweett Group and the SFO.”