Britain's SFO examining recent Rolls-Royce contracts: report

LONDON Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:26am EST

A Rolls-Royce aircraft engine of a British Airways (BA) Boeing 747 passenger aircraft is seen at Heathrow Airport in west London April 7, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A Rolls-Royce aircraft engine of a British Airways (BA) Boeing 747 passenger aircraft is seen at Heathrow Airport in west London April 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) - An investigation by Britain's anti-fraud watchdog into Rolls-Royce's dealings in Asia extends to contracts signed less than three years ago, the Telegraph newspaper said on Saturday.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is examining some of the aerospace and defense contractor's contracts won after Britain's new Bribery Act came into force in 2011, the newspaper said without citing sources.

The Telegraph said this suggested the probe extended beyond bribery allegations by whistleblowers, one of which involved Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of Indonesia's late president, with respect to an engine deal in 1990. Suharto has denied the allegation.

In December 2012, Rolls-Royce, the world's second-largest maker of aircraft engines behind General Electric, was ordered by the SFO to hand over details of possible bribery and corruption in China, Indonesia and other overseas markets.

A source close to the investigation told Reuters at the time the allegations related to events in the "distant past", and would probably not fall under the Bribery Act.

This tougher law made failure to prevent bribery an offence and clamped down on "facilitation payments" and disproportionate hospitality used to oil the wheels of business.

The Telegraph said the SFO was examining contracts, and especially Roll-Royce's use of intermediaries to win them, since Chief Executive John Rishton took over in March 2011. Rishton has said he would not tolerate improper business conduct.

The SFO and Rolls-Royce declined to comment on the Telegraph article.

On Wednesday, the SFO arrested an Indian-born donor to one of Britain's ruling political parties and his son as part of the probe into Rolls-Royce. Sudhir Choudhrie and his son have denied any wrongdoing and have been released on bail, their spokesman said on Friday.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh, editing by David Evans)

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