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Bribe takers now facing tougher penalties

New bribery laws that could land engineers in prison and hit companies with unlimited fines received Royal Assent last week.

The Bribery Act will come into force in October and will see individuals and companies facing prosecution for failing to prevent bribery in their organisation.

If bribes are paid by or on behalf of an organisation, the company will have to show that it has “adequate procedures” in place to prevent corrupt business practices or face the penalties.

Guidance on these procedures is likely to be issued by the Ministry of Justice in June or July but will not be prescriptive.

The guidance is likely to cover anti-bribery policies, training of staff, corporate entertainment and gifts, and better due diligence on agents and business partners.

“The Act is now a reality and businesses should be aware of the penalties.”

Neill Blundell

The Bill introduces a general offence of offering or receiving bribes, a specific offence of bribing a foreign public official. In addition, it also proposes a corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery.

According to recent research by law firm Eversheds, which canvassed the views of almost 700 executives, 60% of businesses are unaware of the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery and one in four board directors don’t know that they could face prosecution.

“The Bribery Act is now a reality and businesses need to be aware of the penalties they could face if they don’t comply,” said Eversheds fraud group head Neill Blundell.

Firms found guilty also face unlimited fines and will be “automatically and perpetually” barred from all EU procurement activity.

“The issue of how to deal with and prevent bribery should be dealt with as a priority by companies at board level, and robust anti-bribery controls should be put in place now,” added Eleni Petros, senior vice president for risk management specialist Marsh’s financial and professional practice.

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