16 March 2009 | Jake Kanter
UK anti-corruption authorities have turned a "blind eye" to bribery allegations and are not doing enough to punish offenders, according to pressure groups.
Experts from anti-corruption organisations the Corner House and Transparency International (TI) said the UK government should take tougher action to deter businesses from making illegal payments to win contracts.
TI has written to business minister Ian Pearson, calling on the government to ban suppliers from bidding on future contracts if found guilty of bribery. It said ministers must strengthen laws on corruption.
A draft bill designed to reform bribery law is currently before Parliament.Nick Hildyard, a researcher at the Corner House, said bodies such as the Serious Fraud Office had failed to act on their obligations to fight corruption.
The calls came as two British men face prison in the US if found guilty of alleged involvement in a scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials.
Jeffrey Tesler, 60, a lawyer from London, was arrested by the Metropolitan police this month. He was accused of being hired by US engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) to bribe Nigerian officials to win engineering procurement and construction contracts.
Wojciech Chodan, 71, a former salesman at a UK subsidiary of KBR, is wanted on a US warrant for allegedly participating in discussions to pay bribes.
Last month KBR agreed to settle a fine and civil penalties after admitting to a scheme to obtain contracts for a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria (News, 5 March 2009).
As SM went to press, the US Department of Justice wanted to extradite Tesler and Chodan to stand trial in the US under anti-bribery legislation.