De La Rue probed by Serious Fraud Office

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office has opened another investigation into the activities of De La Rue, focusing this time on its activities in South Sudan.

In a short statement to the stock exchange this morning. De La Rue said the probe had been opened “in relation to suspected corruption in the conduct of business” in the African country.

The company said it intends to co-operate with the SFO in its investigation but adds that “given the early stage of these matters, it is not possible to predict reliably what effect their outcome may have.”

The news adds to the pressure on De La Rue as it faces a revolt by its largest shareholder – seeking to accelerate the departure of chairman Philip Rogerson – a big drop in pretax profits and a tougher operating environment that has led to a big restructuring drive, including layoffs at its Gateshead banknote and security printing plant.

It’s not the first time the banknote, passport and security technology company has been under the scrutiny of the SFO. Back in 2010, De La Rue called in the agency to look into quality and production irregularities at one of its paper mills and the falsification of test certificates on some banknote batches. It hasn’t revealed which of its business units are the subject of the latest probe.

The earlier incident claimed the scalp of former CEO James Hussey, who had been employed at the company for 25 years, who was eventually replaced by Martin Sutherland.

Sutherland masterminded a pivot away from De La Rue’s traditional manufacturing-focused business in banknotes and identity products like passports, and towards a service- and technology-oriented model, particularly in security features and product authentication and traceability (PAT). He has since also announced his departure from the company.

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