The UK Bribery Act comes into force from today, 1 July 2011.
- Introduces a corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery by persons working on behalf of a business, which may include joint venture partners, suppliers and other third parties. Your business can avoid conviction if it can show that it has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.
- Makes it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe and to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe either at home or abroad. The Act also covers bribery of a foreign public official.
- Has a wide territorial reach, biting on any organisation which is carrying on any form of business in the UK, regardless of where it is headquartered.
- Increases the maximum penalty for bribery from seven to ten years imprisonment, with an unlimited fine.
If you have not yet carried out an assessment of your business and the ways in which it may be exposed to the effects of the new Act, you should do so now. In particular, you may need to review your relationships with third parties to ensure you do not become liable for their corrupt actions, even if you knew nothing about them. It is relatively straightforward to put in place proper procedures to offer a defence if worst comes to worst and one of your employees or other associates is guilty of a bribery offence, but inaction is not advised.
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