Bribery is a criminal offence, as is corruption under the Bribery Act 2010; which came into force on the 1st of July 2011. The tentacles of this Act are extendable even beyond the shores of the United Kingdom; as long one of the enterprises concerned has any affiliation with or to a UK company. The Serious Fraud Office is charged with the task of investigating allegations or suspicions of bribery and/or corruption in England and Wales. The Bribery Act criminalises the giving or indeed acceptance of bribe by UK nationals and bodies incorporated under UK law in any part of the globe.
The reasoning behind such global extension being that at home or abroad, corruption has an adverse effect on UK businesses. Although it is a relatively new law, significant work has already been carried out under the Bribery Act. Many companies that failed to seek guidance before and right after the Act came into force have either been fined, penalised or their officials imprisoned on bribery and corruption allegations and subsequent convictions. As is almost always the case, ignorance is no excuse under the law. It is not enough of a defence for a company or its officials to argue that they were not aware of what constituted bribery and corruption.
For the avoidance of doubt, the SFO defines bribery as the act of receiving offering something of value in order to influence a transaction. This may not necessarily be at the beginning of the transaction; even where ‘gifts’ of value are offered and accepted following the transaction in acknowledgement of the fact that it had been influenced, this may still constitute a bribery and corruption offence known as illegal gratitude.
Other offences which may fall under bribery and corruption include extortion or the demand for money and/or goods as a condition, conflict of interest within an organisation and by virtue of which an employee’s personal interest in a transaction overshadows good governance. Kickback, corporate espionage and charging a commission or a fee which may be construed as a bribe may also be classified as criminal offences under the Bribery Act. We have found that some clients; corporate or individuals, may sometimes be uncertain of what falls under the rather wide and ubiquitous umbrella of the Bribery Act. We can assist in conducting tailor made training sessions relevant to your specific business and industry with specific emphasis on those areas where the risk of falling prey of potential bribery and corruption acts are most prominent in your line of work.
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It is nevertheless important to also point out that the Act is not a witch hunt exercise either. Companies and officials who believe that they may have reason to be concerned about their previous policies and procedures are best advised to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. It will prove more and extremely costly in terms which exceed monetary if the SFO or other investigating agents discover the malpractices or less than transparently honest dealings of an organisation. Bearing in mind that the SFO can be contacted in the strictest confidence by members of staff who suspects bribery and corruption practices or even by rival businesses, it is essential that corporate legal entities and their officials put their proverbial houses in order.
Speak to us today and we will enter into negotiations on yours and the company’s behalf. This is known as Corporate Self Reporting. Not only does it save the time and resources which are usually invested into these investigations but it also affords the company and its officials the opportunity of negotiating their penalties. We will guide you through the whole process and advice on policies and procedures which when out in place will assist in ensuring that your company becomes complaint with the provisions of the Bribery Act. Where allegations are brought nevertheless, our best criminal defence solicitors in London will prepare, argue and present your case most vigorously; utilising any relevant information at our disposal to ensure that directors are not disqualified and/or imprisoned. Speculative allegations based on the whistle blowing of possibly disgruntled employees or competitors will be most vehemently challenged on our clients’ behalf.