Sweett Group PLC convicted of bribery

23 February 2016

Practice Area: Commercial Law


February 2016 has been an important month for the Serious Fraud Office (the “SFO”), as it marked the first conviction and sentencing of a commercial organisation failing to prevent bribery of its associated persons  (section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010) following an investigation by the SFO.

In July 2014, the SFO opened a criminal investigation into Sweett Group PLC, a UK company operating in the field of construction and professional services (the “Company”). The allegations in question related to the activities of a subsidiary of the Company in the United Arab Emirates between December 2012 and December 2015, during which time the Company was alleged to have failed to prevent the making of corrupt payments to Khaled Al Bhadie by the relevant subsidiary. Khaled Al Bhadie was the Vice Chairman of the Real Estate and Investment Committee of Al Ain Ahlia Insurance (“AAAI”), and the payments were alleged to have been made with the intention of securing and retaining a contract with AAAI for the purposes of building a hotel in Dubai.

In December 2015 the Company pleaded guilty to charges brought under section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, and last week the Company was sentenced and ordered to pay £2.25 million; £1.4million of which was a fine, £851,152.23 was in confiscation, and £95,031.97 was costs awarded to the SFO.

In a press release by the SFO on 19th February, the Director of the SFO, David Green CB QC noted the importance of the conviction:

“Acts of bribery by UK companies significantly damage this country’s commercial reputation. This conviction and punishment, the SFO’s first under section 7 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.”