'Draconian' anti-corruption law puts buyers in danger

28 February 2002
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28 February 2002 | David Arminas

UK purchasers asked to pay sweeteners abroad could face up to seven years in jail under new anti-terrorism legislation aimed at wiping out corruption.

Little-noticed measures in the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, which came into force this month, outlaws payment of all bribes, including so-called "facilitation payments" intended to speed up deals.

But the measures, in which the government has extended UK law combating bribery and corruption to cover overseas business dealings for the first time, were branded by one international lawyer as "draconian".

Andrew Berkeley, a barrister and consultant to the multinationals group of the International Chamber of Commerce of the UK, said they were the strictest in the world and would put purchasers abroad in danger.

"Purchasers should really examine their conduct because they are in danger of committing serious crimes," he said.

The government says it has included the measures in the act because it believes paying bribes of any kind supports corrupt governments, fostering corrupt societies from which terrorist groups gain support.

Andy Yearsley, director of global sourcing development in Europe at Ford, said purchasers would be walking into a minefield and may unwittingly break the law.

The act extends the UK's anti-corruption law to include offences committed outside the country. It covers all bribes to foreign government officials, ministers, judges and now includes agreements between private companies. It also makes no allowances for the seriousness of the crime according to the amount of money paid or type of objects involved in the bribe.

Melinda Johnson, CIPS's head of policy, said purchasers should not tolerate corruption of any kind. "This is a business, legal and political issue that needs to be ironed out as a priority."

SMfeb2002

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