Fixers purged in a crackdown on foreign deals
As investigators take aim at bribery around the world...
AN INterNAtIONAL crackdown on using fixers who bribe government officials and firms to win foreign contracts has led to major shake-ups at some of Britain’s biggest companies.
the Serious Fraud Office and other law enforcement agencies are targeting the actions of middlemen who have been used by UK firms for decades to help set up deals in Asia and Africa.
the use of agents who understand local business cultures and can introduce company representatives to key government figures has long been viewed as part and parcel of doing trade in some parts of the world.
All too often companies were prepared to turn a blind eye to the tactics used in order to open doors. But the introduction of new bribery laws and a clampdown on corporate behaviour has thrown their actions under the spotlight.
earlier this month, the SFO informed British American tobacco that it had opened a formal investigation into its dealings following allegations in a BBC Panorama programme that it paid bribes in east Africa in an effort to undermine anti-smoking laws.
A whistle-blower who worked for the company in Kenya for 13 years claimed illegal payments were made to politicians and civil servants in order to win their support.
the investigation has prompted firms which operate in emerging markets to review or cut back on their use of agents, although the practice is not generally illegal in itself.
In a separate case, the SFO is examining claims of bribery, fraud and money-laundering at Monacobased engineering group Unaoil. Investigators are now looking into eight companies with alleged links to Unaoil, including London-listed Amec and Petrofac.
It comes after rolls- royce agreed a £671m settlement with the authorities for paying bribes to win business around the world, including lavishing gifts on middlemen in russia, Nigeria and India. the engineering company has now cut agents for its aerospace division more than 90pc, replacing them with its own staff.
Firms are increasingly going to foreign embassies instead, or direct to future clients.