Monday, November 29, 2021

Switzerland fines SBM $7.5 million for paying bribes in Africa

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The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) found that SBM, from 2006 to the start of 2012, had paid more than $22mn and 1 million euros ($1.12mn) in bribes to public officials. SBM subsidiaries paid these principally in Angola and Equatorial Guinea, and to a lesser extent in Nigeria.

SBM Holding Inc SA bank accounts provided the cash. It paid these out through intermediaries, under the cover of sham contracts.

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“These criminal practices were part of a system specifically set up to pay substantial bribes to foreign public officials with the aim of securing contracts for the SBM Offshore group,” the OAG statement said.

The OAG named the three subsidiaries as SBM Holding Inc. SA, Single Buoy Moorings Inc. and SBM Production Contractors Inc. SA.

The OAG order did not name any SBM executives.

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SBM’s Chief Governance and Compliance Officer Erik Lagendijk said the Swiss order closed the issue.

“Today and for many years now, the Company has been implementing substantial measures to ensure that it operates with integrity and fully in line with laws, regulations and with its compliance standards. These measures were also recognised by the Swiss Public Prosecutor Office,” he said.

Wrapping it up

The authorities levied a 4.2mn franc ($4.5mn) fine, just under the maximum of 5mn francs ($5.37mn). They also ordered SBM to pay another 2.8mn francs ($3mn) compensatory claim on bribes paid to officials in Nigeria.

The OAG said it had been impossible to levy similar claims on the Angola and Equatorial Guinea charges as the company had already paid compensation for these in Dutch and US proceedings.

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It was for a similar reason that the Swiss authorities did not pursue SBM over bribes paid in Brazil. The company reached a settlement on these issues in 2017.

The OAG did not some shortcoming in its own investigation. Its work had been unable to establish whether other acts of bribery had taken place, it said.

According to the US, SBM paid at least $180mn to state-owned companies in Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Iraq.

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