Bribery rife among UK firms in emerging markets

Partner Mark Williams

Pressure to engage in bribery and other corrupt practices is rife among British businesses working in emerging markets, according to a new report, despite board-level awareness of the Bribery Act.

The report, by a Henley Business School professor, concluded that many boards comply with the act but know that bribery is a fact of life lower down the business, for the people on the ground.

The report highlights general managers who are being forced to give bribes to win business and describes them as good people being forced to do bad things while boards turn a blind-eye.

For a small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME), the prospect of a large, lucrative overseas contract may be tempting. However, business owners and managers should be alert to the presence of institutionalised bribery in certain countries and the risks they may run of falling foul of the Bribery Act 2010. Under the act, bribery offences attract severe penalties, and such offences include failing to prevent bribery as well as actual bribery.

What are the penalties for committing a bribery offence?

  • The offences of bribing another person, being bribed and bribing a foreign public official are punishable on indictment either by an unlimited fine, imprisonment of up to 10 years or both. Both a company and its directors could be subject to criminal penalties.
  • The offence of failure to prevent bribery is punishable on indictment by an unlimited fine.
  • Businesses convicted of corruption could find themselves permanently debarred from tendering for public sector contracts.
  • Your business may also suffer adverse publicity if it is prosecuted for an offence.

For all commercial contract queries please contact Gaby Hardwicke Partner Mark Williams (pictured) by email or call him on 01323 435 900. To learn about Mark’s skills and experience please view his website profile.

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