The Weir Group
The company is a global leader in the design, supply and ongoing service of engineering equipment for the mining, oil and gas, power and industrial sectors and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. With annual sales in excess of 2 billion, it employs around 15,000 people and operates in more than 42 countries.
It maintains manufacturing facilities in North and South America, the UK, mainland Europe, Australia, South Africa, India and China.
Annual profits vary between 300-600 million.
Lord Smith of Kelvin was chairman of the Group between 2002 and 2013.
The companies main operational thrust in the UK over the next few years (2016-2020) is to be directed at the development and expansion of Nuclear Power and Fracking
The Group has consistently and actively solicited support to its campaigns against any form of Scottish devolution or independence and although founded and registered in Scotland less than 5% of the Groups total workforce is Scottish based.
The Group is an active member of the networking organisation, “Common Purpose” which provides unique and highly productive opportunities through its extensive connections.
In 2013, a team of leaders undertook specialist leadership development programmes and attended a global leadership conference run by “Common Purpose” which had assembled exceptional senior people from across the Commonwealth to tackle challenges that businesses, governments and society face today with the aim of building global relationships for use in the future. The Weir Groups tentacles of influence spread far and wide.
Iraqi Oil for Food Programme
Trade sanctions against Iraq were introduced after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 but the measures contributed to an increase in the suffering and starvation among the Iraqi population and the UN set up the Oil for Food Programme (OFFP).
From 1996 onwards, Saddam Hussein was allowed to sell oil, but all the receipts were placed in a UN account in Paris. Iraq was then able to use the funds to buy goods approved by the UN for the benefit of its population.
Using its French subsidiary Wemco to administer the deals (because of Iraq’s “Buy British Last” policy), the Weir Group tendered for and won several contracts which involved supplying spare parts for water and oil pumps to Iraq’s North Oil Company and South Oil Company.
How the Weir Group worked the scam
Knowing the money could not be paid into an Iraqi bank, it was agreed an Iraqi agent would pay it from his own pocket. When it received the money from the OFFP, the company paid a 10 per cent kickback plus a further 4 per cent for the agent’s services to a fake Geneva-based company, Corsin Finance Ltd. The payments did not arouse suspicion as paying an agent to act on overseas deals was in itself entirely legitimate.
Two meetings were held on 13 and 14 September 2001 at the behest of a group director who was not involved in the OFFP contracts but had become aware of what was going on. At the second meeting, the director gave the go-ahead for the kickbacks despite being told they were illegal. The first payment was made that same day. In total, Weir Group plc secured 16 contracts worth 35 million paying kickbacks of 3 million.
2010: Weir Group prosecuted for providing kickbacks to the Iraqi regime
The “Oil For Food Programme” OFFP was put in place by the United Nations UN to ensure sanctions would not punish Iraqi citizens for the excesses of their government.
The Weir Group agreed on supply contracts heavily overcharging the programme, between 2001 and 2003 diverting around £3.1 million away from humanitarian aid to the coffers of Saddam Hussein.
The company was fined £3 million. The judge said he was taking into account the company’s guilty plea and its willingness to pay back the £9.4 million profits it made from the deals and the £3.1 million it had diverted from the OFFP together with a £1.4 million sum it had paid to its Iraqi agent for acting as a conduit for the illegal payments.
Weir Group PLC put profits before ethics; when told it had to pay a 10 per cent kickback or it wouldn’t win contracts, any scruples about UN sanctions disappeared.
Not one, of the more than 50 employees of the Weir Group involved was identified or pursued through the courts. Despite the fact that a number of individuals from other UK companies charged with similar offences of corruption and violation of sanctions, were charged, tried and punished. Moreover, though most of those at the helm at the time had moved on, many secured prestigious posts elsewhere.
In a statement explaining its decision to keep individuals out of the frame, the Crown Office said: “In the course of this investigation it became clear that the decision to pay kickbacks to the Iraqi government and to pay fees to the Iraqi agent, was taken at Weir Group level. It was, therefore, deemed that the most appropriate course of action was to prosecute The Weir Group plc rather than any individual who may have been involved in these events.”
A critic of the Crown Office said “the fines levied against The Weir Group was a pittance when set against its overall turnover. And they will simply be incorporated into the annual profit and loss account reducing the corporation tax bill. The fines should have been made the personal responsibility of the directors which would have added bite to the punishment.”
Lord Smith of Kelvin, Weir Group’s chairman, said the judgement “finally drew a line” under the prosecution investigation. “What happened back in 2001 was wrong and we accept full responsibility”.
27 August 2014: Weir Group chief executive canvasses support of business leaders to his cause.
Announcing their opposition to a yes vote, 133 business leaders said: “Our economic ties inside the United Kingdom are very close and support almost 1 million Scottish jobs and the rest of the UK is Scotland’s biggest market by far. Our conclusion is that the business case for independence has not been made.”
Their intervention was coordinated by Keith Cochrane, chief executive of the Scottish engineering company the Weir Group and coincided with a campaigning visit to Scotland by David Cameron.
In a follow up on BBC Radio Scotland, Cochrane said he expected Scotland to face higher interest rates and higher costs for business if there was a yes vote. “Scottish business is deeply frustrated at the lack of answers to some basic questions which are pretty fundamental to business as we look forward. The economy is clearly one of the most significant concerns of voters and we felt it was important that Scottish business contributed to the debate. These are real businesses accounting for real jobs.”
12 September 2014: Weir Group to move Glasgow HQ if Scotland votes ‘yes’
Chief Executive Keith Cochrane has said that the group could not guarantee that it would keep its Glasgow headquarters if Scotland became independent after the referendum, although the group’s three service centres would remain in the country.
27 November 2014: Lord Smith of Kelvin the former chairman of the Weir group which championed the anti-independence to chair the DevoMax commission
The Smith Commission issued its report on the shape and form of the devolved powers promised to Scotland by the political parties at Westminster in the days before and after the Scottish Independence referendum.