U.K.-based bridge steel bridge manufacturer Mabey & Johnson Ltd., Reading, pleaded guilty on July 10 to corrupt practices in Jamaica and Ghana between 1993 and 2001, and also of breaking United Nations’ sanctions over trading with Iraq in 2001-2002.

The company is the first to be prosecuted in the U.K. for corruption overseas, according to Serious Fraud Office, the prosecutor.

Mabey & Johnson, which supplies small to medium size prefabricated modular bridges, was committed to sentencing by the Crown Court later this summer.

The firm volunteered evidence of corruption to the authorities last year following its own internal investigation in 2007, says a fraud office official. Allegations of corruption had been made by a former employee, adds a spokesman for the company.

According to the company, five of its eight directors quit after spring 2008 and new management was installed. The SFO declines to say whether it is pursuing any individuals over the law breaking.

“We deeply regret the past conduct of our company, and we have committed to making a fresh start, wiping the slate clean of these offences,” comments the new managing director Peter Lloyd. Disclosing its findings of corruption to the SFO, could be a “template for others facing a similar situation,” he adds.

“It is significant that Mabey & Johnson has cooperated with us to get to this landmark point,” says Serious Fraud Office Director Richard Alderman. “This has enabled this case to be dealt with in just over a year and is a model for other companies who want to self-report corruption and have it dealt with quickly and fairly.”