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UK slammed for ‘bribery’ inaction *(take note Shell)

International watchdog gave Government a dressing down over bribery

International watchdog gave Government a dressing down over bribery

The Government was slammed in a damning report for its “continued failure” to meet its international obligations on tackling “foreign bribery”.

An international watchdog called for swift measures to introduce foreign bribery legislation in Britain and to “establish effective corporate liability for bribery as a matter of high priority”.

The demands are made in a 75-page inquiry report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Working Group on Bribery.

The OECD, the only international body enforcing anti-bribery accords, launched a review of UK anti-bribery measures in the wake of the decision of the Serious Fraud Office in 2006 to drop an investigation into BAE Systems over an arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The result is a hard-hitting condemnation of Government failure to implement the OECD “Anti-Bribery Convention”, due in force nearly nine years ago.

The report said: “The Working Group is disappointed and seriously concerned with the unsatisfactory implementation of the Convention by the UK. The continued failure of the UK to address deficiencies in its laws on bribery of foreign public officials and on corporate liability for foreign bribery has hindered investigations.

“The Working Group reiterates its previous 2003, 2005 and 2007 recommendations that the UK enact new foreign bribery legislation at the earliest possible date.”

The report expresses strong regret about the “uncertainty” surrounding the UK’s commitment to establish an effective corporate liability regime in line with the Convention, as recommended in 2005.

The report acknowledges measures taken by the UK Government to strengthen the fight against foreign bribery, including allocating “significant” funds and national jurisdiction to a specialised City of London Police unit dealing with foreign bribery investigations.

And it notes the UK’s first convictions of an individual for foreign bribery in international business transactions came only last month. The Government also has introduced an “anti-corruption strategy” to improve and strengthen UK foreign bribery laws and structures.

However, the report states “reforms are 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 and prosecution”.


*Headline comment in brackets added by John Donovan

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