Weir pleads guilty to UN sanction-busting in Iraq

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Weir Group will today plead guilty to breaching UN sanctions, having admitted to providing kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq while the UN Oil for Food programme was in operation.

Weir, which provides services to the oil and gas industry, made £3.1m of payments to the dictatorship through an agent who arranged contacts in the country. These were in breach of the programme and it has admitted two charges of sanctions-busting in connection with a number of Oil For Food contracts between 2000 and 2002 as a result.

The case will be heard at the High Court in Edinburgh today. Following the guilty plea, the company said it expected to be subject to a confiscation order of £13.9m. Weir will also likely be liable for a fine, the amount of which will be decided by the Court following the hearing.

An investigation into Weir's activities commenced in 2004 when the Glasgow-based business discovered the payments on top of the commission it paid for its activities, which included the supply of water pumps and pipelines.

An external investigation of all contracts under the Oil For Food programme was carried out by Herbert Smith, the law firm. The company said it had taken comprehensive steps to improve its procedures and now regularly monitors compliance

Lord Smith, the chairman of Weir, said: "What happened was wrong. As I said in 2004, I am bitterly disappointed that this went on within the Weir Group. Since 2004, when we first disclosed the issue, we have radically overhauled procedures. A strong ethics culture is in place across the group and it is the reference point for everything we do."

Weir last month said it expected second-half profits would come in ahead of expectations. The company forecasts earnings of about £145m, £50m better than last time.