Battle Lines Are Drawn Up as Recession Bolsters Corruption; Worldwide Worry: As a UK Probe Is Launched into US Fund Manager Bernard Madoff, Left, and Germany's Siemens Is Fined for Bribery, DPP Keir Starmer, Right, Is Forming Plans to Deal with a Rise in Economic Crimes in Britain

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Byline: JOSHUA ROZENBERG

MORE cases of corruption are likely as a result of the recession, according to the Director of Public Prosecutions. "It is likely that the economic downturn will have an effect on the pattern of crime," Keir Starmer QC predicted.

He disclosed that the Crown Prosecution Service was making arrangements to deal with a possible rise in economic crimes. "You would expect the CPS to take on board what is happening, to assess the effect on crime patterns and to make sure that we are equipped to deal with it," he added. "And that's what we're doing." Starmer was speaking after his counterpart at the Serious Fraud Office, Richard Alderman, had announced an investigation into the British operations of Bernard Madoff, the disgraced US investment adviser. No longer waiting for the police to conduct enquiries, Alderman is now inviting anyone who wants to report a fraud worth more than [pounds sterling]1 million to fill in an online form.

Meanwhile, City law firms are alerting their corporate clients to the risks of bribery and corruption.

Lovells, for example, has just launched a public website warning executives that corruption charges could lead to five years in a US prison, even if their company's links with the US are as tenuous as clearing funds through a New York bank. Corporates and individuals face greater exposure for malpractice than ever before, the firm adds, because of growing assertiveness by national authorities, vigorous enforcement regimes and stronger legislation including a planned Bribery Bill based on Law Commission recommendations.

German electronics group Siemens was recently ordered to pay about ?1 billion ([pounds sterling]890 million) in fines to the US and German authorities for bribing foreign government officials. In London last week, the Financial Services Authority announced that Aon, the leading risk and insurance firm, had been fined a record [pounds sterling]5.25 million because of failings in its foreign antibribery controls. …