New laws aimed at cracking down on business bribery have come on stream. The Bribery Act, which took effect as from 1 July 2011, has been designed to bring the UK into line with international laws on tackling corruption.
Under the Act, it is illegal to offer or to receive bribes. A new law of failing to prevent bribery is also introduced. Both British and foreign companies with a presence in or engagement with the UK are subject to the new rules, which cover bribes made or received in Britain and overseas.
It had been planned that the Act would have come into force in April of this year, but its implementation was delayed after business groups expressed concerns over the clarity of the law’s position on corporate hospitality. In new guidance on the status of corporate hospitality, the Ministry of Justice said: “Very generally, bribery is defined as giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so.” Provided the hospitality offered is reasonable and proportionate, it won’t fall foul of the Act.
Companies are expected to be able to demonstrate that they have adequate procedures in position to prevent bribery taking place. Such procedures could include anti-bribery training for staff, risk assessments of the markets in which they are operating, and conducting due diligence on prospective business partners and customers.