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Prosecutors vow to apply UK bribery law 'vigorously'

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 30 Mar 2011 15:34 GMT
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LONDON (TrustLaw) – Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Wednesday it will enforce the UK Bribery Act “vigorously”, but will listen to “specific issues” companies have regarding its implementation, set for July 1.   

The director of the SFO, a government department responsible for investigating and prosecuting complex fraud, and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) issued joint guidance for prosecutors on the Bribery Act 2010 to coincide with the release of justice ministry guidelines on the new bribery laws.

“The guidance makes it clear that there is an inherent public interest in prosecuting bribery,” the two top officials said in a statement.

"The Bribery Act is good news for the UK and UK business. It confirms our commitment to helping to eradicate bribery from business practices. It will help ensure that ethical businesses do not lose out to others that use bribery and corruption to win contracts,” SFO Director Richard Alderman said. “We shall enforce the act vigorously, but we are still very keen to listen to specific issues that companies have."

The SFO and the DPP outlined their likely approach to prosecuting individuals and businesses suspected of paying or receiving bribes.

"While the Act takes a robust approach to commercial bribery, it also applies to individuals who attempt to influence the application of rules, regulations and normal procedures,” said the DPP, Keir Starmer QC.

"This guidance will enable prosecutors to adopt a consistent approach to decision making across the whole range of bribery cases.” 

It provides examples to English and Welsh prosecutors on factors that should support or go against prosecution of a bribery case.

Factors in favour of prosecution include:

  • The likelihood that a conviction would attract a significant sentence
  • The offence was premeditated
  • The offence was committed in order to assist in the performance of a more serious offence
  • Those involved in the bribery were in positions of trust or authority and had taken advantage of that position

Prosecutorial guidance is clear on the controversial topic of facilitation or grease payments, made to public officials in order to expedite the performance of a routine action. Factors that would tend against prosecution in this area are:

  • The facilitation payment is a small and one-off payment
  • The facilitation payment(s) were self-reported and corrective action has been taken
  • The business has a ‘clear and appropriate policy’ as to how an individual should act should a facilitation payment be requested (and that policy has been followed)
  • The payer was ‘in a vulnerable position’ when the facilitation payment was requested

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