UK slammed over laws to curb bribery

Published October 18, 2008

LONDON, Oct. 17: The OECD’s Working Group on Bribery has sharply criticised the United Kingdom’s failure to bring its anti-bribery laws in line with its international obligations under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

Current UK legislation makes it very difficult for prosecutors to bring an effective case against a company for bribery offences. Although the UK ratified the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention 10 years ago, it has so far failed to successfully prosecute any bribery case against a company.

The OECD group, which brings together all 37 countries that are parties to the convention, is “disappointed and seriously concerned” about the UK’s continued failure to address deficiencies in its laws on bribery of foreign public officials and on corporate liability for foreign bribery, which it said had hindered investigations.

The group acknowledged positive aspects in the UK’s fight against foreign bribery, including the allocation of significant financial resources and nation-wide jurisdiction to a specialised unit of the City of London Police for foreign bribery investigations. It also noted the UK’s first conviction of an individual in September 2008 for foreign bribery in international business transactions and its recent anti-corruption strategy to improve and strengthen the UK’s law and structures to tackle foreign bribery.

But it emphasised that reforms were urgently needed and should be dealt with as a matter of political priority. Recent cases have also highlighted systemic deficiencies that make clear the need to safeguard the independence of the Serious Fraud Office and eliminate unnecessary obstacles to prosecution.

In a report following a supplementary review of the UK’s implementation of its obligations under the convention, the working group reiterated its previous 2003, 2005 and 2007 recommendations that the UK enact new foreign bribery legislation at the earliest possible date. It expressed its strong regrets concerning uncertainty about the UK’s commitment to establish an effective corporate liability regime in accordance with the convention, as recommended in 2005.

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