Companies face new bribery legislation

Companies will face prosecution if they fail to prevent third party agents
using bribery to gain business for them under a Bribery Bill in the Queen’s

It is among 13 Bills and one draft Bill the government claim to be able to
rush through Parliament before a general election which has to be held by June 3
and some believe may be called immediately after the next Spring Budget.

Two other key Bills include a Financial Services Bill to curb bankers’
bonuses and strengthen the FSA, and a Financial Responsibility Bill intended,
many say, to con the markets into believing a future government will half
Britain’s huge deficit within four years and put the nation’s finances onto “a
sustainable path” in the medium term.

The Bribery Bill introduced under pressure from overseas aid charities and
the Serious Fraud Office provides a defence for organisations which can show
they have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery by third party agents
acting on their behalf.

The main elements of the legislation include:

  • “a modern and consolidated bribery law” based on the recommendations of the
    Law Commission;
  • offences covering the offering, promising or giving of a bribe and the
    requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe either at home or abroad in
    the public or private sectors; and
  • a discrete offence of bribery of a foreign official in order to obtain or
    retain business.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman claimed that despite allegations relating to
a major UK armaments manufacturer, Britain is one of the least corrupt countries
— 16th in the world and 3rd in the G8.

He said the bill will “provide a modern and comprehensive scheme of bribery
offences to equip prosecutors and courts to deal effectively with bribery at
home and abroad”.

It will “help us enhance our country’s international reputation for the
highest ethical standards”.

He named Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw as “the
government’s anti-corruption champion”.

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