Press release 23rd Jun 2009

UK Record on Enforcing Foreign Bribery Rules: Still Unimpressive

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On the day that Jack Straw, the UK’s anti-corruption champion, is due to make a major speech on tackling corruption (23 June), the UK comes out with less than flying colours for its record on policing foreign bribery. 

23 June 2009 - The report from global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), rates the UK as only ‘moderately active’ in its enforcement of the OECD foreign bribery Convention. This means the UK must raise its game if it is be effective in deterring UK companies from bribing overseas. Only four of the 36 countries surveyed met the active enforcement standard – Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the US.

The UK’s lack of urgency in updating its antiquated anti-bribery laws is also highlighted as a threat to tackling foreign bribery. The report’s detailed UK findings reinforce concerns that the UK does not take the issue of tackling foreign bribery seriously enough.

While the UK has 20 on-going investigations into foreign bribery and brought four new cases in 20082 – an improvement on previous years - this activity is extremely low compared with other key G7 countries and considering the scale of UK world exports.

According to the report, key shortcomings that inhibit higher UK enforcement activity include:
• Antiquated UK laws that do not comply with the OECD Convention – including an inadequate working definition of foreign bribery, and political control over enforcement;
• Difficulties in prosecuting companies for foreign bribery.

Commenting on the UK’s record Chandrashekhar Krishnan, Executive Director of TI-UK said:

"Although the UK’s enforcement record shows a welcome improvement since the last report we still lag major G7 partners. For instance, the US has brought 120 foreign bribery cases, has strong anti-bribery laws and around 10 per cent of world exports. The UK has a 4.6 per cent share of world exports, yet has brought only four foreign bribery cases.

"If the UK is to play its part in sustaining the Convention, the draft Bribery Bill – currently undergoing parliamentary scrutiny - must become law as a matter of urgency. The UK investigating and prosecuting authorities must also be given sufficient resources to carry out their work effectively."  

Notes to editors
1. The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention establishes legally binding standards to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials in international resources-resources-business transactions and provides for a host of related measures that make this effective. The 30 OECD member countries and eight non-member countries - Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Estonia, Israel, the Slovak Republic and South Africa - have adopted this Convention.
2. The four UK foreign bribery cases involved CBRN Ltd, Balfour Beatty plc, Aon Ltd, and UK solicitor Nigel Heath. More information in the UK section of the TI OECD Convention Progress Report to be posted at 13.00 hours BST 23 June 2009 on the TI website: