Senior employee at troubled engineer ABB suspected of forging documents and stealing £80m

Under-fire engineering group ABB has revealed the discovery of a ‘sophisticated criminal scheme’ in its robotics arm.

The power equipment firm, which supplies the London Underground, said a senior employee is suspected of forging documents and stealing from the company.

The employee, the company’s treasurer in South Korea, went missing on February 7.

The scandal will pile further pressure on the group which faces an investigation into suspected bribery and corruption in Britain.

Fraud: ABB, a power equipment firm which supplies the London Underground, said a senior employee is suspected of forging documents and stealing from the company

This relates to alleged bribes relating to Unaoil, a family-run business based in Monaco. ABB has contacted the Serious Fraud Office about its past dealings with the company.

ABB is based in Switzerland but employs 3,000 people in Britain and has worked on projects including Manchester Airport, West Ham Football Club and UK power grids.

Its chief executive Ulrich Spiesshofer, 52, wrote a letter to staff in which he described the alleged fraud as ‘shocking news’.

‘The entire ABB group – all 132,000 of us – will have to live with the consequences,’ he said.

‘Based on the large sums involved and the sophisticated fraud, it is almost certain that the employee in question was not acting alone.’

ABB is expected to take an £80million hit from the scandal and has launched an investigation, saying it is working with the local police and Interpol to track down the missing employee.

As a result of the latest scandal, ABB said it will not release its annual report today, as planned, and has pushed it back to March 16 at the earliest.

ABB racked up millions of pounds of fines in previous scandals earlier this century.

ABB said this year’s alleged theft was limited to South Korea, where it employs about 800 people and generated sales of £422million in 2015.

The senior employee, who was named by a Reuters source in Korea as Oh Myeong-se, disappeared before ABB discovered the financial irregularities.

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