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SFO investigates ABB for bribery related to Unaoil

The UK Serious Fraud Office said Friday it is investigating ABB Ltd’s United Kingdom subsidiaries, their officers, employees, and agents for suspected bribery and corruption.

The investigation is related to the SFO’s ongoing investigation of Unaoil, the agency said.

ABB Ltd is a Swiss engineering and construction conglomerate. Many of its customers are in the oil and gas business.

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 Monaco-based Unaoil paid bribes on behalf of large companies in the oil and gas sector.

ABB was one of about a dozen companies named in the report as "beneficiaries of Unaoil’s network in the Middle East."

ABB said Friday it self-reported some of past dealings with Unaoil and its subsidiaries, including alleged improper payments, and is cooperating with the SFO and U.S. authorities.

HuffPo said its story was based on leaked internal Unaoil documents.

The SFO said last year it had "been approached by a number of sources who may have information relevant to this investigation."

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 after the Fairfax Media / Huffington Post report appeared.

KBR and FMC Technologies said in early May 2016 that the Justice Department had contacted them with questions about Unaoil. Both said they were cooperating.

UK-based Petrofac said in April last year it launched an investigation into allegations of bribery to win contracts in Kazakhstan and the Middle East. The Fairfax Media / Huffington Post reports said Unaoil may have paid bribes on behalf of Petrofac for work in Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Iraq, and Syria.

In 2010, ABB paid the DOJ and SEC $58 million to resolve FCPA offenses in Jordan, Mexico, and Iraq.


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