ABB admits to bribing African officials

ABB said it found evidence of bribery within one of its subsidiaries Keystone

ABB, the heavily indebted engineering giant, has admitted that one of its subsidiaries bribed officials in West Africa.

This content was published on July 2, 2003 - 19:17

The company said $1.1 million (SFr1.48 million) was paid to secure deals by its oil, gas and petrochemicals (OGP) division between 1997 and 2002.

Shares at the Swiss-Swedish firm fell 2.2 per cent to SFr4.40 on Wednesday amid fears that the bribery case could jeopardise the company’s sale of its OGP unit.

At least three buyers are said to be bidding for the division, which ABB needs to sell in order to cut its $8.2 million debt mountain.

The sale has already been hampered by court delays involving ABB’s $1.3 billion asbestos deal, which could cap potentially ruinous claims against the company.


In a statement lodged with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday, ABB said it had launched an investigation into “improper dealings” within its OGP division.

“As a result of the investigation, we learned that some employees of subsidiaries in this division apparently were involved in making unauthorised payments of approximately $1.1 million and promises of additional payments from 1997 through 2002,” the statement said.

“The payments were made in order to obtain from local officials in a West African country confidential information and favourable consideration with respect to contracts upon which we were bidding,” it added.

Ethical standards

ABB said the payments had violated the company's internal ethical standards, and that it had disciplined employees and senior staff involved.

US authorities have not yet decided whether to prosecute the bribery case.

"If the Department of Justice or the SEC determine that violations of law have occurred, they could seek civil or...criminal sanctions, including monetary penalties against us," the ABB statement said.

"If the SEC investigates, it could upset the OGP unit sale," one Zurich dealer told Reuters.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Shares in ABB fell 2.2 per cent to SFr4.40 on Wednesday over fears the company's sale of its OGP unit would be jeopardised by the bribery case.

ABB said it had discovered through an investigation that subsidiariesof OGP had been involved in unauthorised payments totalling around SFr1.5 million ($1.1 million).

The company added the money was used to bribe local officials in a West African country for confidential information.

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