Macmillan Publishers ordered to pay £11.3m

Macmillan Publishers has been ordered to pay £11.3m for "unlawful conduct" related to its education division in East and West Africa.

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.

"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."

Six-year ban

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.

Macmillan said it had co-operated with the World Bank and the SFO by instructing external lawyers to conduct an independent investigation into publicly tendered contracts won by the company in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia between 2002 and 2009.

After working with the World Bank and the City of London Police, the SFO completed its investigations, saying: "It was plain that the company may have received revenue that had been derived from unlawful conduct."

Following an accounting examination the SFO determined that £11.26m should be recovered, which the High Court ordered.

Macmillan will also pay the SFO's costs of pursuing the High Court order, which amounts to £27,000.

The World Bank welcomed the latest news.

"Today's announcement is testament to the importance of unified global action against corruption to ensure efforts to educate the children of Sudan and other developing countries are not undermined by corruption," said Stephen Zimmermann from the Bank.

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