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Two Convictions In UK Bridge-Builder Case

Australian and American combat engineers rebuild a Mabey & Johnson Bridge in Afghanistan in 2008.The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office today said two former directors of engineering firm Mabey & Johnson Ltd were found guilty of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein to win contracts to build steel bridges.

A jury in the Southwark Crown Court jury convicted Charles Forsyth and David Mabey of making illegal payments to Iraq during 2001 and 2002 in breach of United Nations sanctions, the SFO said.

Forsyth was the managing director of Mabey & Johnson and David Mabey was the sales director when the offenses occurred. The kickbacks amounted to over €420,000 for a contract to supply 13 steel modular bridges.

Their trial opened at Southwark Crown Court on January 17. Sentencing is set for February 23.

In September 2009, Mabey & Johnson Ltd was sentenced by an English court for overseas corruption and violations of the U.N.’s oil-for-food program. The firm paid £6.6 million in criminal fines and related assessments. It pleaded guilty in July last year to bribing officials in Jamaica and Ghana to win public contracts, and paying kickbacks to the pre-war Iraqi regime in violation of U.N. sanctions. As part of its sentence, the privately-held company is also required to retain and pay for an SFO-approved monitor to review its internal compliance program.

After Mabey & Johnson’s sentencing last year, the SFO’s director Richard Alderman said: “This is a landmark outcome. The first conviction in this country of a company for overseas corruption and for breaking the U.N. Iraq sanctions and, satisfyingly, achieved quickly. . . . I urge other companies who might see some parallels for them, to come and talk to us and have the matter dealt with quickly and fairly.”

In today’s release, the SFO said another Mabey & Johnson defendant, Richard Gledhill, who was sales manager for contracts in Iraq, pleaded guilty to violating U.N. sanctions at an earlier hearing and gave evidence for the prosecution. 

Mabey & Johnson self-disclosed its illegal overseas payments in Iraq to the SFO in 2008.

View the Serious Fraud Office’s February 10, 2011 release here.

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