SCHOOL: Sudan (File image)
BOOK PUBLISHERS Macmillan have been slapped with a massive £11.3m court payment order for "unlawful conduct" in connection with dodgy deals in its East and West African education division.
The High Court order was made after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) began an inquiry last year following a report from the World Bank.
The report said Macmillan had made "bribery payments" to secure a deal to print textbooks in South Sudan.
Macmillan said it "deeply regretted" what had happened.
The civil recovery order – it is not technically a fine – is one of the highest amounts that any company has been forced to pay as a result of a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution, either civil or criminal.
"Fortunately, it has been established that these issues were confined to a limited part of our education business in East and West Africa," said Macmillan chief executive Annette Thomas.
"The company deeply regrets what has passed, but has learned from the experience and has emerged stronger as an organisation."
The World Bank set up a trust fund in 2006 to finance the rebuilding of South Sudan's economy, government, health and education systems devastated by decades of civil war.
The SFO said that the initial report from the Bank had said that an agent for Macmillan had made an attempt "to pay a sum of money with the view in mind of persuading the award of a World Bank funded tender to supply educational materials in Southern Sudan".
"The company did not win the contract," the SFO said.
As a result of the World Bank report, in March 2010 Macmillan referred the case to the SFO and was later banned from taking up any contracts financed by the World Bank for six years.