Macmillan Publishers Ltd has been ordered to pay £11.3m due to "unlawful conduct" relating to its education division in Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia. The sum, by far the largest fine recouped in a civil recovery to date, was awarded by the High Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 after a detailed accounting investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, who also received £27,000 in relation to its costs.
In the wake of a World Bank report detailing corruption in Sudan, raids were undertaken by the City of London Police and in March 2010 the company itself took the case to the SFO. Both Macmillan and the SFO have stressed that the company was highly cooperative throughout the investigation, hiring external lawyers to run a concurrent investigation. The case demonstrates the benefits that self-reporting corruption to the SFO can have for a corporation, avoiding many of the issues associated with criminal proceedings and arguably, despite the large fine in this case, costing far less than a full criminal recovery.
This is the fifth civil recovery case undertaken by the SFO, who have publicly stated that civil recovery is an efficient and useful alternative to criminal recovery in many cases of corporate wrong-doing. The SFO noted that the products Macmillan supplied were of good quality, and that they had not been overpriced. Nevertheless, the company has closed all ongoing and prospective tenders in its Education Division in East and West Africa.