Firm to pay £5m in corruption probe

Crown OfficeA British drilling company is to pay out more than £5 million under proceeds of crime laws after it accepted it had benefited from "unlawful conduct", prosecutors have revealed.

Aberdeen-based Abbot Group Limited admitted it benefited from corrupt payments made in relation to a contract entered into by one of its overseas subsidiaries and an overseas oil and gas company, the Crown Office said. The contract was entered into in 2006 and the payments were made in 2007.

The Crown Office said the corrupt payments were brought to light last year following inquiries by an overseas tax authority which resulted in an investigation by a firm of solicitors and a firm of accountants instructed by Abbot itself.

None of the people involved in the payments remain with the group, which said it was "deeply disappointed" over what took place. Abbot reported the results of the investigation to the Crown Office in July this year under a "self-reporting initiative". It is the first company to enter into such a civil settlement since the initiative was introduced last year.

The £5.6 million to be handed over will be paid in three stages by the end of March 2015.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC said: "Bribery and corruption cause worldwide damage to business and economic development. The self-reporting initiative creates a mechanism for businesses to recognise their corporate responsibility and take a rigorous approach to the investigation and elimination of such practices.

"While consideration must first be given to prosecution of appropriate cases, I am pleased that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Civil Recovery Unit are committed to taking effective steps to ensure that businesses face up to their responsibilities and relinquish any unlawfully obtained profits."

Louise Andrew, general counsel at Abbot Group, said: "Abbot Group has self-reported to the Scottish Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service that it uncovered that, in 2007, improper payments were paid in connection with an overseas transaction. The payments were made to an overseas company. The self report has led to today's civil settlement agreement with the Civil Recovery Unit in the sum of £5.6m which represents the profit on the contract.

"None of the personnel who were involved in those payments remain with the group. The settlement also means there will be no criminal investigation of Abbot or subsidiaries. Unfortunately, in view of any criminal investigation of others that may follow, it is not possible to provide any further details.

"We are deeply disappointed this improper payment took place. We believe in conducting business legally and ethically and do not tolerate bribery in any form."
Read Full Story