The Sweett Group PLC, a construction and professional services company, has been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court today after earlier pleading guilty 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), contrary to section 7(1)(b) of the Bribery Act 2010. This was the first sentence passed under section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010.
The Sweett Group was ordered to pay £2.25 million, broken down as £1.4m in fines and £851,152.23 in confiscation. Additionally, £95,031.97 in costs were awarded to the SFO.
Being a guilty plea, the case does not provide any great guidance as to what might constitute adequate procedures. However, the trial judge stated that the company had willfully ignored two KPMG reports that revealed weaknesses in the company’s systems and controls, suggesting the failures were extensive.
It was notable that the company were unable to convince the SFO that the matter could be concluded by way of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. The SFO have set down firm rules as when a case is deemed suitable for a DPA, and the process of initiation is entirely at their discretion. The Sweett Group case demonstrates that the SFO are prepared to follow these rules robustly when a company is deemed not to be offering sufficient cooperation.
For further information on the Sweett Group case, see Legal update, Sweett Group plc sentenced for first conviction under section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010 (Crown Court).