Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has opened an investigation into the iconic car, aerospace and defence group, Rolls-Royce, following allegations of bribery and corruption in its overseas markets of China and Indonesia.
The investigation was opened two days before Christmas, but the allegations were made since 2006 by a whistleblower, former Rolls-Royce employee Dick Taylor, who posted comments below Rolls-Royce articles on several newspaper websites, including The Guardian.
Taylor claimed that the company had bribed Tommy Suharto, son of Indonesia’s former president General Suharto, with $20 million and a blue Rolls-Royce car. The allegations go back to the 1980s and 1990s and relate to efforts to persuade the national airline, Garuda, to order Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines. The allegations were denied by Suharto.
The company said in December 2012 that its own investigation into the allegations had identified "matters of concern" in China and Indonesia and in other overseas markets of the company.
The SFO told HT that it was not able to provide background information to the investigation, but pointed to its short statement of 23 December: "The SFO confirmed that the Director has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption at Rolls Royce".
Rolls-Royce confirmed the SFO investigation, and said in a statement that it was cooperating with investigators and had passed information to the SFO relating to concerns about bribery and corruption involving intermediaries in overseas markets.
John Rishton, Rolls-Royce Chief Executive, said: "I want to make it crystal clear that neither I nor the Board will tolerate improper business conduct of any sort and will take all necessary action to ensure compliance. This is a company with exceptional prospects and I will not accept any behaviour that undermines its future success".
Rolls-Royce, which employs over 40,000 people in 50 countries, said it had significantly strengthened its compliance procedures in recent years, including a new Global Ethics Code and a new Intermediaries Policy.
In 2011, aerospace major BAE Systems paid £286 million in criminal fines, split between the US and UK, after it was accused of "wilfully misleading" over payments made to win overseas contracts.