LONDON (TrustLaw) - Australia’s poor enforcement of its foreign bribery laws is a matter of serious concern, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Thursday.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) received 28 foreign bribery referrals in the last 13 years but just one case was prosecuted in that time, a report by the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery said.
“The Working Group thus recommends that the AFP take sufficient steps to ensure that foreign bribery allegations are not prematurely closed, and be more proactive in gathering information from diverse sources at the pre-investigative stage,” the report said.
While criticising Australia’s lack of enforcement, the group said the offence of foreign bribery is becoming a priority for the Australian government. It highlighted the establishment of a Foreign Bribery Panel of Experts to advise the AFP investigation teams as an encouraging development.
Australia’s one prosecution of foreign bribery is an ongoing case initiated in 2011 when police charged two subsidiaries of Australia’s central bank with bribery over alleged payments to officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam between 1999 and 2005 to help win contracts to print banknotes.
The group also made recommendations to improve Australia’s foreign bribery enforcement:
- Efforts should be made to ensure that corporations cannot avoid criminal liability
- Coordination between federal and state agencies should be improved
- The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s expertise in fighting corporate crime should be shared with appropriate agencies
- The state should vigorously pursue false accounting cases.
Thirty-nine countries, including most of the industrialised world but not China and India, have signed a 1997 convention to combat bribery in international business transactions.
The convention was drawn up by the Paris-based OECD and signatory nations are monitored by working groups made up of officials from other member countries.