A nine-year bribery scam was uncovered by Coca-Cola's indirect procurement team © Photo by Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
A nine-year bribery scam was uncovered by Coca-Cola's indirect procurement team © Photo by Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

How procurement at Coca-Cola Enterprises unearthed a £1.5m bribery scam

13 April 2022

An investigation initiated by the procurement team at Coca-Cola Enterprises Ltd (CCE) led to the discovery of a nine-year contracts-for-bribes scam.

Noel Corry – who was on £62,500 in his role as electrical and automation manager at CCE – took bribes of £1.5m in exchange for confidential information to help favoured bidders win contracts, Southwark Crown Court was told. 

Corry has pleaded guilty to five counts of corruption and was due to be sentenced yesterday (13 April).

He ensured large volumes of work at CCE went to Boulting Group Limited (now known as WABGS), Tritec Systems Limited, and Electron Systems Limited in return for large sums of money paid directly or indirectly to him.

Corry – who was responsible for identifying electrical services contractors for bottling plants in the UK – received “at least” £950,000 from Boulting Group by the time his actions were uncovered in 2013. Tritec Systems paid Corry over £600,000 in bribes. 

Members of the CCE’s procurement team raised concerns after finding problems with quotes in tenders. 

Court papers said: “The close attention of the procurement team did not deter Mr Corry from continuing to provide confidential information.”

One member of the team became suspicious after Boulting initially provided a quote that was much higher than a key competitor, only for it to drop just below the competitor’s figure over the course of a weekend.

The procurement team then alerted finance and security and an investigation was launched into Corry’s conduct.

The court papers said an examination of Corry’s work laptop revealed documents – including an Excel spreadsheet entitled “slush” – which established a longstanding “corrupt relationship” with Boulting, based on inflated rates and  “bogus contracts” dating back to 1999.

Corry had the power to award general contracts directly or through a tender process, although he was restricted to a limit of £50,000 per contract, above which he needed to seek approval.

However, in 2011, several contracts which had previously been awarded by Corry were made subject to a national tender process run by a newly-appointed indirect procurement team based at CCE's head office.

Previously consultants would run tendering processes but the changes meant the in-house procurement team handled the process. These changes meant Corry had to actively provide confidential information in relation to the tender process for the larger contracts. It was following these in-house procurement changes that the team became alerted in 2013 to the wrongdoing.

CCE settled with the companies involved in September 2013 after they accepted responsibility for the wrongdoing in a civil case.

Peter Kinsella, a contract manager at Boulting, and Gary Haines, a director of Tritec Systems, are being sentenced alongside Corry.

WABGS has pleaded guilty to one count of failure to prevent bribery, Tritec Systems pleaded guilty to corruption and failure to prevent bribery, and Electron Systems pleaded guilty to corruption and failure to prevent bribery.

In mitigation Corry’s lawyer told the court he felt “​​truly remorseful” for his actions and his involvement in the scandal had “very adversely affected” his family.

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