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Aberdeen company to pay more than £6m after self-reporting Kazakhstan bribery

The Civil Recovery Unit is to recover £6.46 million under Proceeds of Crime legislation after an Aberdeen company accepted it had benefitted from unlawful conduct.

WGPSN admitted one of its subsidiaries, PSNA Limited, had benefitted from payments made to Unaoil to secure contracts in Kazakhstan. WGPSN’s ultimate holding company is John Wood Group PLC (Wood).

The payments to Unaoil were made in connection with three contract tenders, two of which were successful, to provide services for the operation and maintenance of onshore and offshore oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical facilities in Kazakhstan.

The successful contracts were entered into in 2008 and 2010 by a joint venture in which PSNA Limited held an interest. Between 2012 and August 2015, a total of 1,358 million Kazakhstan Tenge (then approximately US$8.74m), was paid by the joint venture to Unaoil but there was limited evidence of legitimate services having been provided.

The contracts were entered into before the PSN business was acquired by Wood and the potential misconduct came to light in March 2016, when media reported on widespread corruption by oil and gas consultants Unaoil. The reports said Unaoil had worked with WGPSN in Kazakhstan.  

Wood conducted an internal investigation and, in May 2017, the results of the investigation were submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). WGPSN went on to submit a formal report under the self-reporting initiative in September 2019. After consideration, COPFS referred the case to the Civil Recovery Unit for investigation. Wood and WGPSN fully co-operated with the Civil Recovery Unit's investigation.

WGPSN has now agreed to pay £6,465,564, which represents the dividends and retained profits from the two contracts.

Wood and WGSPN have taken steps to develop and improve its policies and training to try and prevent similar events taking place in the future.

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said:

"Bribery and corruption undermine legitimate business and harm economic development. Companies are responsible for ensuring they do not allow their employees or contractors to secure any commercial advantage through bribery.

"COPFS and the Civil Recovery Unit are committed to taking effective steps to ensure businesses face up to their responsibilities and relinquish any unlawfully obtained profits.

"Any companies who uncover any instances of bribery should notify the Crown Office as soon as possible."

Anne-louise House, Head of the Civil Recovery Unit, said:

"The self-reporting initiative allows for responsible companies to accept their involvement in corrupt practices and to draw a line under previous conduct.

"In appropriate circumstances such as this, it gives them the opportunity to repay the illegitimate profits in lieu of criminal proceedings.

"The funds which have been recovered will be remitted to the Scottish Consolidated Fund."