'Quick, simple, reliable bridges' is the tagline for Mabey and Johnson, the first major UK firm to be prosecuted for corruption abroad. The firm may be regretting their claim following the revelation that structures built by the company in Ghana were found to be defective, and the firm was ordered to pay £2million in compensation.
Following an internal investigation and cooperation with the Serious Fraud Office, the bridge equipment firm last month pled guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to ten offences of corruption – having paid backhanders to win multi-million pound contracts in Ghana and Jamaica and for breaching UN sanctions in the Iraq ‘oil for food’ programme in 2001. They were also accused of paying £363,000 into the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in 2001 and 2002. The firm now await sentencing for the offences which will be read on 25 September.
The company’s temporary military bridges are used heavily in Iraq by US and UK troops and are capable of reuse after deconstruction.
UK publication, The Guardian, broke the news of the defective bridges in Ghana on Friday. They revealed that Mabey and Johnson made corrupt payments to unnamed Ghanaian politicians in the 1990’s and were subsequently awarded the contracts for 9 bridges. But following the collapse of a bridge of the same type in Ethiopia, according to the publication, managers questioned the reliability of the structures in Ghana rebuilding three and repairing five. A dispute with an insurance company over who should pay led to a high court judgement stating the engineering miscalculations were ‘negligent’, said The Guardian.
Commenting on the corruption developments, Mabey & Johnson’s new Managing Director, Peter Lloyd, said:
“We deeply regret the past conduct of our company, and we have committed to making a
fresh start, wiping the slate clean of these offences. The investigation has already involved
significant costs for the company. In addition, at a hearing expected later this year, the
Court may order the company to pay a financial penalty, as well as the costs of an
independent monitor and legal costs. We have also agreed to pay appropriate compensation
as a further expression of our regret.”