27 March 2009 | Jake Kanter
UK companies will be at increased risk of prosecution if they neglect to prevent bribery under proposed new laws published last week.
The draft Bribery Bill aims to provide a more effective legal framework to combat bribery in the public and private sector.
Among the proposals is an increase to the maximum penalty for bribery to 10 years' imprisonment (with an unlimited fine). The draft also planned to create a discrete offence of bribery of a foreign public official, and an offence of negligent failure by commercial organisations to prevent bribery.
The Ministry of Justice said organisations would be able to defend the "failure to prevent" offence if they had adequate procedures in place for preventing bribery - but not if the negligence was on the part of a director or someone of similar seniority.
Transparency International executive director Chandrashekhar Krishnan said it would place more responsibility on business.
"Companies now are going to have to make doubly sure that they have effective anti-bribery policies in place."
Krishnan said the bill, which will replace fragmented and complex offences in common law and the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889-1916, was "long overdue".