October 28, 2002

 Canadian multinational fined US$2.25 million for bribing African official

Monday, Oct. 28 -- In a landmark decision, handed down today, the Lesotho High Court has fined Canadian engineering multinational Acres International US$2.25 million (22,580,091 maloti) for bribing the former head of a multibillion-dollar dam project to secure contracts.

The fine, more than ten times what Acres had argued for, sends a clear message to Acres and other multinational companies that bribery doesn't pay, says Patricia Adams, Executive Director of the Canadian environmental and anti- corruption watchdog, Probe International.

Acres was convicted last month of bribing Masupha Sole, the former chief of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, and has said it will appeal that decision. The judge, the Honourable Mr. Justice M. L. Lehohla, has reserved his decision on a defence request to suspend payment of the fine pending the outcome of the appeal court. The prosecution is strongly opposing the proposal.

Acres' staff and officers did not face jail terms. But the company could face debarment from international development contracts. The World Bank, which paid for Acres' work on the Lesotho dam project, is now reviewing Lesotho court documents to determine whether there are grounds for blacklisting Acres.

Patricia Adams predicts tough penalties for convicted bribers will help end corruption on Third World development projects.


, Probe International, Toronto, Canada Phone: (416) 964-9223 ext.228.

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