UK’s Serious Fraud Office launches investigation into bribery allegations concerning consultant’s historic operations in Morocco

business useful

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has launched an investigation into bribery allegations relating to Sweett’s historic operations in its Middle East office.

Last June the Wall Street Journal reported that in 2010 a Sweett executive told an architect at US-based practice HLW hoping to work on a hospital project in Morocco that his company would have to pay 3.5% of the value of the contract to an official at the client to win it.

In April the firm disclosed it was in “discussions” with the SFO and the USA’s Department of Justice (DOJ) over the Wall Street Journal allegations and had hired lawyers Mayer Brown to undertake a second investigation into the allegations, after an earlier investigation by Pinsent Mason found the allegations were “not proven”.

In April Sweett said Mayer Brown uncovered “material instances of deception [that] may have been perpetrated by a former employee or employees of the Group during the period 2009 – 2011”.

Now, in a statement to the stock exchange this morning, Sweett said: “The SFO has now decided to exercise its statutory powers under the Criminal Justice Act to investigate this matter.  Sweett Group continues to cooperate fully with the SFO on this matter.”

The firm added: “Sweett Group notified the SFO last year about an allegation of impropriety concerning the conduct of a former employee in 2010, which was reported in the Wall Street Journal in 2013.

“That former employee operated from an office in Dubai under contract with Cyril Sweett International Limited (CSI).  CSI is a company registered in Cyprus and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sweett Group plc.

“Sweett Group initiated independent investigations of the allegation and has been keeping the SFO regularly informed as to the progress of those investigations.

“As was reported on 2 April 2014, evidence came to light that suggests that material instances of deception may have been perpetrated by a former employee or employees during the period 2009 - 2011. One of the former employees refused to answer questions asked of him by the independent investigators.”