Press release 11th Oct 2022

UK no longer an active enforcer of foreign bribery as global enforcement hits historic low

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October 11, 2022 – Britain has lost its place among the top enforcers of foreign bribery laws in new research published today by Transparency International.

Exporting Corruption 2022, which ranks the world’s biggest exporters on how well they investigate and sanction companies for paying bribes abroad, sees the UK relegated from the ‘active’ enforcers group to join Germany, France, and others deemed to be only ‘moderate’ enforcers.

Foreign bribery wreaks havoc in countries around the world, illicitly channelling public money into private profits and buying undue influence over government decision-making for major multinationals.

This is the first time the UK has fallen out of the top group and comes against a backdrop of historically low reports in enforcement of cross-border bribery around the world. Just the United States and Switzerland remain active enforcers that investigate, charge and impose sanctions proportionate with their share of global exports.

While a lack of major bribery cases coming to court was the reason behind the slide, the UK’s outdated corporate criminal liability laws combined with corporate secrecy in Britain’s offshore financial centres makes enforcing the Bribery Act more difficult. 
Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, said:

“It is concerning to see the UK lose its status as an active enforcer of foreign bribery for the first time. The UK has one of the most robust anti-bribery laws in the world, but without effective enforcement, law-abiding British companies will face unfair competition when doing business overseas. Key to the UK regaining its place among the top enforcers is ensuring the Serious Fraud Office has the resources and strong mandate to successfully prosecute bigger and more contentious cases.”


Transparency International UK calls on the UK Government to:

  • Ensure the SFO has the resources and mandate necessary to remain the principal actor for enforcing foreign bribery offences.
  • Ensure that Deferred Prosecution Agreements – a type of corporate plea deal - are used only in cases of strong public interest, with utmost transparency, and as a means to encourage other companies to report themselves to authorities when wrongdoing is discovered in the future.
  • Bring Britain’s corporate criminal liability laws into 21st century by broadening corporate criminal liability beyond the failure to prevent foreign bribery and tax evasion.


Exporting Corruption 2022 assesses 43 signatories to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, along with China, India, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore, on their anti-bribery enforcement between 2018-2021.

It finds countries’ enforcement against foreign bribery has dropped to its lowest level since Transparency International began this measurement in 2009. The report finds the COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted global economic activity, and undoubtedly impacted countries’ ability to meet their obligations to enforce against foreign bribery – but the downward trend in enforcement began in 2018.

Most of the surveyed countries have limited or no enforcement at all – including China, the world’s top exporter. In this group of 38 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of all global exports, foreign bribery abuses go unpunished.

Notes to editors:

Exporting Corruption only assesses a country’s record on the enforcement of its anti-bribery laws overseas. It does not take into account how a country may facilitate corruption elsewhere in the world through other means, or its performance in pursuing domestic bribery through the courts.

The report classifies countries into four enforcement categories: Active, Moderate, Limited and Little or no Enforcement.

During this 2018-2021 period assessed by this report, the UK opened 19 investigations, commenced 10 cases and concluded 13 cases with sanctions.

Countries are scored based on enforcement performance at different stages, namely the number of investigations commenced, cases opened and cases concluded with sanctions over a four-year period (2016-2019). Different weights are assigned according to the stages of enforcement and the significance of the case.

A country's share of world exports is also factored in when determining scores.