In the latest development in a international bribery case that has spanned years, Nigeria will receive more than $286,000 from a 2021 agreement with now-defunct Amec Foster Wheeler PLC involving corruption charges on overseas oil and gas projects.
The receipt of the funds follows the Feb. 21 signing of a memorandum of understanding between the U.K. and Nigeria, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said. The 2021 agreement was between Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd. and the SFO.
The Amec Foster Wheeler “offenses of corruption” occurred from 1996 to 2014 and took place in Nigeria, Malaysia, India and Brazil, the SFO said.
According to the 2021 indictment, a now-dissolved Foster Wheeler subsidiary made “corrupt payments” to officials at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. and the Eleme Petrochemical Co. Ltd. related to a contract for “technical backup services” at an olefins plant at Eleme, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Foster Wheeler had signed a contract in 1995 to operate and maintain the facility.
The new funds will help finance three infrastructure projects in Nigeria.
According to the SFO, the projects are the Lagos-to-Ibadan Expressway, the Abuja to Kano Road; and the Second Niger Bridge.
SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said in a statement that she was “delighted that the tenacity of my SFO colleagues has resulted in the people of Nigeria being compensated in a way that will truly benefit them.”
The SFO told ENR via email that the funds that went to the Nigerian government did not come from the U.K. government. SFO added, "The funds were sent from the SFO to the Nigerian government through the U.K. Home Office, which facilitated the arrangement."
Amec PLC acquired Foster Wheeler in November 2014, and John Wood Group PLC acquired the combined companies in October 2017. At the time of the 2021 agreement Wood said in a statement that the alleged payments relate to Amec Foster Wheeler activities before Wood's acquisition of the firm.
Under the 2021 agreement, Wood and its Amec Foster Wheeler Energy Ltd. subsidiary paid penalties and costs to the U.K., U.S. and Brazil, according to the SFO. The total payment was about $177 million. The U.K. was to receive about $142 million, at the exchange rate at the time.
In June 2021 DOJ entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in which Amec Foster Wheeler agreed to pay $18.4 million to settle charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
In a related U.S. civil proceeding, the Securities and Exchange Commission, said the company agreed to pay $22.7 million for alleged bribes paid in Brazil.
Wood chief executive Robin Watson said in the 2021 statement, "The investigations brought to light unacceptable, albeit historical, behavior that I condemn in the strongest terms."
Watson added, Although we inherited these issues through acquisition, we took full responsibility in addressing them, as any responsible business would." He said that the firm "cooperated fully with the authorities and have taken steps to further improve our ethics and compliance program from an already strong foundation."
Story changed on 2/23/22 to reflect clarification from the Serious Fraud Office that the funds sent to Nigeria were part of the 2021 settlement and not from the U.K. government.