Call to unmask Weir bosses behind £3m Iraq kickbacks
THE Weir Group executives who authorised more than £3 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein through the United Nations' Oil For Food Programme should be named and brought to justice, campaigners said last night.
• The Glasgow-based Weir Group Picture: TSPL
Last week the individuals responsible for nodding through the payments made by the Glasgow-based engineering firm escaped punishment at the High Court in Edinburgh though the firm was fined 3m and ordered to hand over 14m it made from the Iraq deals.
The court heard the company wired millions of pounds to a Swiss bank account to pay Saddam's henchmen in an attempt to evade UN sanctions. In return, Weir gained multi-million-pound profits from the dictator's regime.
Yesterday, Richard Baker, Labour's justice spokesman, said he believed the executives in charge at the time should be held accountable, adding he would raise the matter with the justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill.
Baker said: "A crime has taken place and a substantial amount is to be paid in penalties, but there does not seem to be any individual held to account over what happened.
"Weir Group has been found sadly wanting and holding individuals to account should be part of any penalties. Other people in society who commit financial crimes have to face the consequences of the law."
John Hilary, chief executive of the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: "I think directors at the top levels of British companies should be held responsible for the actions of their companies."
Yesterday, a Crown Office spokesman said: "In the course of this investigation, it became clear the decision to pay kickbacks to the Iraqi government, and fees to the Iraqi agent, was taken at Weir Group level. It was, therefore, deemed the most appropriate course of action was to prosecute The Weir Group plc rather than any individual who may have been involved."
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "By taking this money through proceeds of crime legislation, we send out a clear message that any form of illegal activity by Scottish firms - be it here or abroad - will not be tolerated in Scotland." He said some of the fine would go to the CashBack for Communities programme and international relief work.
A government spokeswoman added: "Decisions on legal proceedings would be a matter for the prosecution system, which is rightly independent of ministers."
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