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‘Abysmal’ Bribery Laws Shamed *(take note Shell)

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6:32am UK, Friday October 17, 2008

The Government’s record on tackling bribery faces criticism today in a new report by an international watchdog.

Law Lords

Law Lords found nothing wrong with the Serious Fraud Office earlier this year

The ‘exceptional’ review was ordered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) bribery working group.

It followed the decision by the UK Serious Fraud Office to drop an investigation into a BAE Systems arms deal with Saudi Arabia in 2006.

The report is expected to attack the UK’s record in prosecuting companies and individuals who have paid bribes to foreign public officials.

Sources said the report was “quite nasty”, adding: “Usually these things are couched in very diplomatic language, but this time it looks as though the velvet gloves have come off.”

Chandrashekhar Krishnan, UK executive director of Transparency International, said: “It is time the UK Government accepts its failings and commits to urgent and robust action.

“There can be no more hiding behind smokescreens, the UK record is abysmal and is severely damaging her international reputation.”

Since the OECD anti-bribery convention came into force, there has only been one serious investigation and one prosecution in the UK – in comparison to 105 by the USA, 43 by Germany and 19 by France.

The OECD usually carries out reviews on members every two years, but decided to undertake an extra investigation of the UK’s enforcement of the anti-bribery convention following the controversial BAE decision.

Earlier this year the Law Lords ruled the Serious Fraud Office had acted lawfully when it halted its investigation into bribery allegations on the grounds of national security.

The OECD report will assess how effective the country’s laws are in practice, with concerns expected over a failure to reform anti-bribery legislation and the national security get-out.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw, the Government’s newly-appointed anti-corruption champion, said in a written ministerial statement that “significant progress” would be made on new laws in the next few months.


*Headline comment in brackets added by John Donovan

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