07:25, November 08 55 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-08 07:25:03
Rolls-Royce trio plead guilty to corruption charges in US

Three former employees of British engineering firm Rolls-Royce have pleaded guilty in America to bribery and corruption offences, the Serious Fraud Office and US Justice Department said.

James Finley, Keith Barnett and Louis Zuurhout, who worked in the company’s energy division, entered the plea following parallel investigations by US and UK authorities into whether bribes were paid to secure overseas contracts over a 14-year period between 1999 and 2013.

They are accused of being involved in schemes whereby foreign government officials received bribes in exchange for deals that benefited a Rolls-Royce subsidiary in the US, including a contract to supply equipment and services to power a gas pipeline from central Asia to China.

A further individual, Andreas Kohler, who worked for an international engineering consulting firm instructed by Rolls-Royce’s former customer in Kazakhstan, also entered a guilty plea. Another individual, Petros Contoguris, who worked as an intermediary for Rolls-Royce has been charged by FBI.

“Today’s indictment and guilty pleas reveal that those associated with this corruption did knowingly conspire to break the law for their own personal gain,” said Stephen Richardson, assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division.

“No one is above the law, so let today’s announcement be a warning to those who may try to perpetrate a similar scheme that the FBI will aggressively pursue those who attempt to bribe foreign officials for an unfair advantage in the global marketplace,” he added.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Rolls-Royce has committed to full ongoing co-operation with the Department of Justice and cannot comment on action against individuals.” Rolls sold its energy business in 2014.

In January this year, Rolls-Royce agreed to pay £671m in penalties after long-running investigations into claims it paid bribes to get export contracts. The settlement meant the FTSE 100 company would avoid prosecution by anti-corruption investigators in the UK, US and Brazil, but it did not exempt individuals.

The US Justice Department said its prosecutors and FBI agents had worked closely with their counterparts in Brazil and with the SFO. Kenneth Blanco, acting assistant attorney general of the US Justice Department’s criminal division, said the defendants would face justice, “which represents another important step towards levelling the playing field for all ethical and honest businesses.”

The SFO said its investigation into conduct of individuals in Rolls-Royce civil, defence, marine and former energy divisions continues, in parallel with a US Department of Justice investigation.