Consultant expects SFO prosecution as it announces it will exit the Middle East
Consultant Sweett Group has confirmed it has been charged with a bribery offence by the Serious Fraud Office.
The confirmation comes after the firm announced in a statement to investors earlier this month that it expected to be prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office, following an investigation by the bribery watchdog into allegations related to the firm’s Middle East division.
Sweett chief executive Douglas McCormick said: “We welcome this development which brings closure on the Middle East legacy issues a step closer allowing the Group to progress unencumbered in the future.
“This is an important next step in the strategic turnaround of the business.”
The charge has been brought under section 7(1) of the UK’s Bribery Act 2010 - “failing to prevent an associated person bribing another to obtain or retain business for the company”. A charge of this nature will not result in a debarment from bidding for public sector work, Sweett confirmed.
In the firm’s update earlier this month, the firm also disclosed it has decided to exit the Middle East and restructure into five new divisions, as it posted an increased half-year pre-tax loss of £548,000 for the six months to September 2015.
In this earlier statement Sweett said the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) investigation into the firm - prompted by bribery allegations first published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in June 2013 - was “at an end”.
Sweett said that during its own investigations, “two related contracts within the Middle East were identified as suspicious and were duly reported to the SFO”. These contracts were “entered into in 2013”, the firm’s chief executive Douglas McCormick said.
This led to an admission by Sweett of an offence under section 7(1) of the UK’s Bribery Act 2010 - “failing to prevent an associated person bribing another to obtain or retain business for the company”.
Building understands the bribery offence Sweett disclosed to the SFO is unrelated to the original WSJ allegations.