Sunday, May 16, 2021

UK’s fraud agency closes bribery investigation into KBR

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The U.K.’s major economic crimes agency on Thursday said it had closed a bribery-related probe into subsidiaries of U.S. engineering firm KBR Inc.

Evidence collected during the nearly four-year investigation didn’t meet standards for pursuing a prosecution against U.K. subsidiaries of the Houston-based company, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office said.

The SFO opened its investigation into KBR in 2017 after media reports alleged Monaco-based contractor Unaoil Group had paid bribes for a bevy of companies in the energy sector, including KBR.

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Results of the SFO’s Unaoil probes have been mixed. Prosecutors recently secured convictions of four individuals connected to the contractor, and the agency continues to pursue investigations into U.K. energy services companies Petrofac Ltd. and Amec Foster Wheeler, which was acquired by John Wood Group PLC in 2017.

John Wood Group said on Wednesday it expects to resolve Unaoil-related investigations into Amec Foster Wheeler and other legacy companies for around $197 million.

But the SFO has also halted several of its initial inquiries. In addition to its probe of KBR, the agency last year closed an investigation into European engineering company ABB Ltd.’s dealings with Unaoil.

The closure of the KBR probe comes a month after the U.K.’s Supreme Court ruled the SFO erred in trying to use certain investigative powers to obtain evidence held at the company’s U.S. headquarters. The ruling stemmed from an order to produce evidence the SFO issued in 2017.

The KBR probe had been winding down for some time, according to the company. KBR last year said it had been notified by the SFO that the agency was no longer focused on allegations of corruption related to Unaoil. Other lines of inquiry remained open, the company said at the time.

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U.S. prosecutors also closed a Unaoil-related investigation into the company, KBR said at the time.

In a statement Thursday, KBR said it was pleased with the SFO’s decision to close its remaining investigations into the company.

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