G4S became the latest British company to become embroiled in an overseas bribery case yesterday, when two employees were jailed in Afghanistan for paying local officials to release impounded vehicles.
Bill Shaw, a British employee of the security firm and a former officer in the Military Police, was sentenced to two years in Afghanistan's notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison near Kabul. He was convicted in a special anti-corruption court, which has been partly funded by the UK as part of Afghan reconstruction effort. Maiwand Limar, an Afghan employee, was also convicted.
G4S, which has up to 1,500 employees in Afghanistan, said the charges were without foundation and that the convictions are unsafe. "We continue to believe the charges against both Bill Shaw and Maiwand Limar were totally misconceived, not proven in court and we stand fully behind their innocence," a spokesman for G4S said.
"We strongly disagree with the verdict and maintain that both men behaved in an open and fully transparent fashion.
"It is expected that an appeal will be lodged shortly and we will be encouraging the Afghan and British authorities to work with us in overturning this patently unfair judgement. We will continue to support both men and their families at this most difficult time," the spokesman said.
Shaw was convicted of paying local officials $25,000 (£16,000) to release two impounded vehicles. The company maintains that it was sure it was dealing with the Afghan National Directorate of Security and that the payment was a legitimate fee. Shaw, who spent 28 years in the army and was awarded an MBE for his military service, cooperated fully with the investigation, G4S said.
In the future, companies such as G4S could face prosecution in the UK for bribes paid by foreign-based staff. The Bribery Act, which was passed in the wash-up period before Parliament was dissolved at the beginning of this month, makes it an offence for companies to allow their employees to bribe overseas officials. G4S will not be caught by the legislation, which is yet to come into force.
Separately, the Chinese government yesterday defined what it classifies as commercial secrets, a month after four employees of the mining giant Rio Tinto were found guilty of corporate espionage, and of paying bribes.
The guidance was dated 25 March, the day after the convictions in the Rio Tinto case.