Many leading economies are failing to stop their companies from spreading corruption around the world, NGO Transparency International has warned in its annual progress report on enforcement of the OECD anti-bribery convention.
The UK is one of only four countries signed up that is actively investigating and prosecuting companies which bribe foreign officials to win or inflate contracts, or obtain licences and concessions. The others are Germany, Switzerland and the US.
Of the 41 countries signed up to the 15-year-old convention, five were classified as having moderate enforcement, while another eight had limited enforcement. One signed the convention after the research had begun, and the remaining country was not included because of its minimal contribution to global exports.
The four leading enforcers completed 225 cases and started 57 new cases from 2010-2013. The other 35 countries completed 20 and started 53. Twenty countries have not brought any criminal charges for major cross-border corruption by companies in the last four years.
Canada is the only country to show significant improvement since last year’s report, having significantly improved its foreign bribery law and started several investigations.
“For the anti-bribery convention to achieve a fundamental change in the way companies operate, we need a majority of leading exporters to be actively enforcing it, so that the other countries will be pressured to follow suit,” said Transparency International chair José Ugaz. “Unfortunately, we are a long way from that tipping point, and that means the vision of corruption-free global trade remains far away.”
Twenty two of the countries party to the OECD Convention are doing little or nothing by way of enforcement. These countries represent 27 per cent of world exports. Transparency International said enforcement is low “because investigators lack political backing to go after big companies, especially where the considerations of national economic interest trump anti-corruption commitments. Investigators also often lack the resources to investigate complex white-collar crime”.
Transparency International said one reason cross-border bribery in international business deals thrives is that investigators lack the resources to track the complex money laundering techniques increasingly used to conceal bribery deals.
It said: “Corrupt deals are increasingly masked by sophisticated shell companies whose real beneficial owner is not known, even to authorities. The OECD needs to help authorities work together across borders if they are to keep pace with the increasingly cross-border nature of crime.”
The anti-corruption group also reiterated its call on the EU and G20 to ensure the publication of beneficial ownership in public registers of company information.
• One fifth of all fraudulent business activity in Britain last year took place in and around Mayfair in London, according to the latest figure from Graydon, a provider of credit intelligence.