Corruption offences have been brought against people for some time now; however, the Bribery Act 2010 created new criminal offences that can now include corporations.
Here at Saunders Law, we are specialists in defending those facing charges of bribery and corruption. With our industry expertise in anti-bribery and corruption compliance, we can also help commercial organisations who are at risk of bribery tackle this problem head-on.
We understand how stressful it can be to face such accusations, but we are here to help. To discuss your circumstances, get in touch with us today. Call us on 020 7315 4808 or complete our online enquiry form.
What is the Bribery Act 2010?
In the UK, the law on anti-bribery and corruption is governed by the Bribery Act 2010. This legislation contains key provisions that no reputable business can afford to ignore, not least because it requires commercial organisations at risk of bribery to have in place adequate preventative procedures.
Furthermore, the Act imposes severe penalties, including unlimited fines, imprisonment of up to ten years, and a mandatory ban from tendering for public work in the EU.
However, it is not only the stringent nature of the provisions contained within the 2010 Act that puts it at the forefront of anti-corruption legislation, but also how far-reaching these provisions are.
Any person can be prosecuted under the Act where the offence, or any act or omission that forms part of a bribery offence, takes place in the UK or they have a close connection with the UK.
The Act also applies to any business or commercial organisation, no matter its size. If it is a body incorporated or formed in the UK or carries on a business or part of a business in the UK, it will fall within the scope of the Act.
The Bribery Act 2010 contains two general offences, namely the offering, promising or giving of a bribe, commonly referred to as “active bribery”, and the requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of a bribe, i.e., “passive bribery”.
The Act also sets out two further offences specifically aimed at combatting commercial bribery. These are as follows:
- Bribery of a foreign public official – this offence relates to bribery to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business.
- Failing of commercial organisations to prevent bribery – this is a strict liability offence, committed by a commercial organisation if it fails to prevent bribery and corruption by a person associated with it, whether or not the company or organisation itself is directly culpable.
In relation to the strict liability offence of failing to prevent bribery, in practice, this means a commercial organisation will automatically commit an offence. This is regardless of whether the organisation was aware of the unlawful conduct – if someone associated with it, such as an employee, agent or subsidiary, commits a bribery offence.
The possibility of being found guilty of an offence for the actions of others can, to say the least, be an unnerving prospect for companies and other commercial organisations. That said, there are positive steps that can be taken to protect you and your business.
Indeed, it is a defence under the Act to prove that, as an organisation, you had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent persons from undertaking such conduct, including conduct amounting to an offence of bribery. Here at Saunders, we can help you to put in place those all-important preventative measures.
What constitutes adequate procedures?
Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of the Bribery Act 2010 when dealing with bribery and corruption, is the positive obligation it imposes on commercial organisations to have anti-corruption procedures in place if they are to avoid facing prosecution and hefty financial penalties.
As such, companies and other commercial organisations must always bear in mind the extent to which the Bribery Act will apply to them, and consider what they might do to best protect themselves against bribery and corruption. This is not least because the investigating and prosecuting authorities are committed to taking this type of unlawful conduct seriously.
What counts as adequate when deciding on the procedures and policies to put in place will depend on the bribery risks you face, and the nature, size and complexity of your business. Many organisations will face little or no risk of bribery, especially if their business is undertaken primarily in the UK. If you operate overseas, however, the risks may be higher.
That said, various guiding principles can help companies to assess whether they have established adequate anti-bribery and corruption procedures. These include the following:
- Top-level commitment from senior management to prevent bribery, and to foster a culture of zero-tolerance to corruption.
- Carrying out risk assessments, for example, periodic, informed and documented assessment of the nature and extent of any potential internal and external risks of bribery.
- Implementing procedures to prevent bribery by persons associated with a commercial organisation that are proportionate to the bribery risk it faces, and to the nature, scale and complexity of its activities.
- Carrying out due diligence in respect of associated persons, including those who perform or will perform services on behalf of the organisation, in order to mitigate the risk of bribery.
- Ensuring anti-bribery and corruption policies and procedures are embedded and understood throughout the organisation, including training proportionately to the risks the organisation faces.
- Monitoring and reviewing procedures designed to prevent bribery by persons associated with it and making improvements to procedures where necessary.
How can our Anti-Bribery & Corruption Solicitors help?
Our Anti-Bribery & Corruption Law Specialists have a wealth of experience in the effective implementation of these guiding principles, working closely with companies and other commercial organisations to ensure they comply with the law to minimise the risk of investigation and prosecution.
We can help you to understand the risks that bribery and corruption might present to your business, and the benefits that can flow from working directly to eliminate them. We can advise you on your risk assessments for anti-bribery and corruption based on the nature of your particular organisation and business deals, as well as the implementation of suitable policies and procedures throughout your organisation to avoid criminal liability.
In addition to providing advice and guidance on anti-bribery and corruption procedures, we can also provide representation for organisations or executives facing an investigation into allegations of corrupt practices, or even those wanting to report an incident to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). The SFO is the agency responsible for investigating bribery.
If the SFO has approached you or suspect an incident of corruption has occurred in your organisation, please contact us today.
Contact our Anti-Bribery & Corruption Compliance Lawyers in London
Saunders Anti-Bribery & Corruption Compliance Solicitors can provide you with comprehensive and strategic legal advice on all matters relating to anti-bribery, corruption compliance, investigations and prosecutions.
For expert legal advice and robust representation, contact our specialist solicitors for a consultation at the earliest opportunity.