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Sweett Group to leave ME after bribery admission

The firm has admitted to bribery charges under UK law related to two contracts in the Middle East secured in 2013

NEWS, Business, Bribery, Middle east, Sweett Group

Sweett Group is to close its Middle East business after admitting to bribery charges in the region.

The firm, which has offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Riyadh and Colombo, admitted to an offence under Section 7(1) of the UK Bribery Act 2010 in relation to two related contracts entered into in 2013.

In a statement filed on the London Stock Exchange, the firm said: "The Board has decided to exit the region and is reviewing options."

Douglas McCormick, chief executive officer of Sweett Group, said it would instead focus its business operations in Europe and North America, citing challenging trading conditions and a declining order book in the Middle East.

Sweett Group declared a loss of £500,000 (AED2.7m) for the six months to September 30, despite a 9% year on year increase in revenue to £30.2m (AED167m).

Its Middle East arm declared an operating loss of £800,000 (AED4.4m) against revenues of £2.6m (AED14.4m) which were down on £3.3m (AED18.2m).

An investigation was launched by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in to Sweett Group following allegations made in the Wall Street Journal in June 2013 over work on a hospital project in Morocco.

The firm said it also started its own investigations with regards to the two related contracts within the Middle East and reported this to the SFO.

This has led to an admission by Sweett Group of an offence under Section 7(1) of the UK Bribery Act 2010 (failing to prevent an associated person bribing another to obtain or retain business for the company).

The firm said it expects to be hit with a fine but should still be able to bid for public sector contracts in its home market of the UK.

McCormick said: "Today's announcement brings closure on the Middle East legacy issues a step closer, allowing the Group to progress unencumbered in the future. This is an important next step in the strategic turnaround of the business."

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