A NEARLY four-year bribery investigation into the owner of Ladbrokes could end in a “substantial financial penalty”.

Entain said it is in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and admitted misconduct “may have occurred”.

The two sides are trying to reach a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, which removes the threat of prosecution for a company if it lives up to certain conditions.

The case is a bribery investigation into Entain’s former subsidiary in Turkey.

Authorities opened a probe into its suppliers in 2019, expanding it less than a year later to look at wrongdoing within the Entain group itself.

Entain sold the Turkish-facing online betting and gaming business in 2017.

On Wednesday, Entain said it “acknowledges that historical misconduct involving former third party suppliers and former employees of the group may have occurred”.

It said the investigation includes, but is not limited to, section seven of the Bribery Act.

This means a company is guilty of an offence if it benefits by retaining business or an advantageous business condition from someone paying a bribe.

Entain said: “While the company cannot say at this stage what the consequences of the investigation will be, it is likely that they will include a substantial financial penalty which is yet to be determined.

“The company cannot identify reliably at this stage the size of any financial penalty.”

Entain – at the time known as GVC – sold the Turkish business before being taken over by Ladbrokes Coral in a £3.6 billion deal.

It was told about the investigation in 2020 but at the time said it had not been given enough clarity by HM Revenue and Customs.

On Wednesday, it said: “Since the investigation first commenced, the group has undertaken a comprehensive review of anti-bribery policies and procedures and has taken action to strengthen its wider compliance programme and related controls.

“Whilst the discussions with the CPS remain ongoing, the board is content with progress to date and looks forward to pursuing an orderly conclusion to this matter.”