Scottish Crown Office Investigating Wood Group About Payments Relating to Unaoil

On October 27, the Sunday Post reported that Scotland’s prosecution service, the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (Crown Office), is investigating multinational energy services firm John Wood Group.  That investigation involves payments relating to the foreign-bribery investigations pertaining to Unaoil and other companies by the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

Since 2016, the SFO has been “conducting a criminal investigation into the activities of Unaoil, its officers, its employees and its agents in connection with suspected offences of bribery, corruption and money laundering.”  Since 2017, it expanded into investigating the activities of London-based engineering company Amec Foster Wheeler, which the Wood Group acquired in October 2017, “and any predecessor companies owning or controlling the Foster Wheeler business, together with the activities of any subsidiaries, company officers, employees, agents and any other person associated with any of these companies for suspected offences of bribery, corruption and related offences.”

In its August 20 statement of its half-year results for 2019, the Aberdeen-based Wood Group included a number of disclosures relating to Unaoil and Amec Foster Wheeler.  With regard to the SFO’s Amec Foster Wheeler investigation, the Wood Group stated that it

is co-operating with and assisting the SFO in relation to this investigation.  Notifications of certain matters within the above investigations have also been made to the relevant authorities in Brazil (namely, the Federal Prosecution Service and the Office of the Comptroller General).

According to the Wood Group, Amec Foster Wheeler made a disclosure to the SFO about “investigations into Amec Foster Wheeler in relation to Unaoil and in relation to historical use of agents and certain other business counterparties by Amec Foster Wheeler and its legacy companies in various jurisdictions.”  In that regard, it noted that “since April 2017, in connection with the SFO’s investigation into Unaoil, the SFO has required Amec Foster Wheeler to produce information relating to any relationship of Amec Foster Wheeler with Unaoil or certain other third parties.”

The Wood Group further disclosed that it had independently “conducted an internal investigation into the historical engagement of Unaoil by legacy Wood Group companies, reviewing information available to the Group in this context.”  That internal investigation “confirmed that a legacy Wood Group joint venture engaged Unaoil and that the joint venture made payments to Unaoil under agency agreements.” Thereafter, in September 2017, the Wood Group informed the Crown Office of the internal investigation’s findings.  It added that the SFO and the Crown Office agreed that the Crown Office “has jurisdiction in respect of this investigation.”

Finally, the Wood Group provided an update on the foreign-bribery investigation of Amec Foster Wheeler by the Justice Department and the SEC.  It reported that it “has received voluntary requests for information from, and continues to cooperate with,” both agencies.

N.B.: This report indicates that four separate enforcement agencies – the SFO, the Crown Office, the Justice Department, and the SEC – are now investigating connections between the Wood Group, Amec Foster Wheeler, and Unaoil for possible foreign bribery, and that two more agencies in Brazil may be doing so as well.   It is also incidentally instructive as a reminder that, while the SFO gets the lion’s share of publicity for enforcement of the Bribery Act 2010, it is the Crown Office that has authority to pursue Bribery Act violations in Scotland.

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