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SFO confirms investigation of KBR

The UK Serious Fraud Office confirmed that it has opened a new investigation into KBR, Inc.’s United Kingdom subsidiaries for suspected bribery and corruption.

The investigation “is related to the SFO’s ongoing investigation into the activities of Unaoil,” the agency said in a statement Friday.

The probe covers KBR’s local subsidiaries and their officers, employees, and agents, the SFO said.

Houston-based KBR is an engineering, procurement, and construction company mainly serving the oil and gas industry.

The company disclosed the SFO investigation Friday in an SEC filing. In April last year it first disclosed Unaoil-related investigations by U.S. authorities.

It said Friday the “DOJ, SEC, and the SFO are conducting investigations of Unaoil, a Monaco based company, in relation to international projects involving several global companies, including KBR, whose interactions with Unaoil are a subject of those investigations.”

KBR received a “subpoena from the SEC and a Section 2 notice from the SFO,” it said Friday.

Under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987, the SFO Director can compel companies and individuals to produce information or documents that might be relevant to a matter under investigation.

In 2009, KBR and its former parent Halliburton paid $579 million to the DOJ and SEC to resolve FCPA offenses in Nigeria. The settlement still ranks as the third biggest FCPA enforcement action ever.

In July last year, the SFO opened a criminal investigation into suspected bribery by Unaoil.

A report in March 2016 by Fairfax Media and the Huffington Post said Unaoil paid bribes on behalf of large companies in the oil and gas sector.

Unaoil has denied the allegations of corruption. In June 2016, the firm said it would take legal action against Fairfax Media and its partners for “malicious and damaging allegations negligently published” by them.

Police in Monaco raided Unaoil’s offices at the request of the SFO.

According to information compiled by FCPA Tracker, companies in addition to KBR that have disclosed Unaoil-related investigations include ABB, FMC Technologies, Core Laboratories, Petrofac, and SBM Offshore.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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