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Crack down on overseas bribes, ministers told home

  •, Thursday November 20 2008 00.01 GMT
  • The Guardian, Thursday November 20 2008

The government last night came under renewed pressure to clamp down on foreign bribery after the Law Commission, the expert body tasked by ministers to investigate the subject, recommended tougher laws for the offence.

For years, the government has been criticised for failing to pass strong legislation to stop payments by British companies to foreign officials and politicians, in return for contracts.

The report from the independent commission, due this morning, said existing laws were “both outdated and in some cases unfit for purpose”.

The commission recommended new offences which they believe will be more effective in curbing corruption.

Anti-corruption campaigners are pressing ministers to commit themselves to new legislation, pointing to polls which show people around the world believe Britain has become more corrupt.

Britain has secured only two foreign bribery prosecutions since 1997, when it signed up to a global treaty on overseas corruption. The treaty is policed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose inspectors said last month that the government lacks the political will to tackle the crimes.

In 2000, Jack Straw, the then home secretary, promised to introduce a law to bring Britain in line with the treaty. The justice secretary, as the government’s “anti-corruption champion”, is now responsible for responding to the Law Commission’s new report.

Among other measures, the commission recommends a new offence in which company executives can be prosecuted if they “negligently failed to prevent the bribery”.


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