Anti-Bribery Enforcement on the Increase Overseas

Article excerpt

U.S. government contractors involved in overseas sales have long recognized the need to comply with the anti-bribery provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the law barring bribery of foreign government officials in order to obtain or retain business. Last September, we discussed the recent FCPA enforcement trend, clearly on the increase. Interestingly, a similar review of recent enforcement actions overseas demonstrates that the focus on international bribery has increased in its intensity. Below, we highlight some of the most notable of these enforcement actions.

These actions commonly arise under local laws implementing the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. U.S. firms operating overseas should heed this trend and ask themselves if they have implemented the requisite robust safeguards vis-a-vis their offshore operations, including all teaming and joint ventures with non-U.S. partners.

In October 2005, French courts found 43 defendants guilty of colluding, concealing corruption and peddling influence during a trial involving alleged corruption in public procurement. France's main political parties allegedly accepted bribes between 1989 and 1997 totaling more than 30 million Euros (approximately $36 million in U.S. currency) from five multinational building contractors in return for the award of lucrative contracts to renovate schools in and around Paris. Politicians apparently received payments to finance party campaigns amounting to 2 percent of the value of any school building contract. According to the investigation, over half of the bribery money went to Jacques Chirac's political party.

Also, several high level French officials were found guilty of corruption, including Chirac's former chief-of-staff when he was mayor of Paris and former sports minister. Both received four-year suspended prison sentences and were assessed fines of 50,000 Euros. Additionally, the former employment minister and regional leader of one political party received a four-year suspended prison sentence and an 80,000 Euro fine. The party's treasurer received a 20-month suspended prison sentence and was fined 10,000 Euros.

In a 2005 case in Greece, four judges came under investigation for allegedly accepting bribes from a high-ranking clergyman, who sought favorable rulings in cases involving misappropriation of antiquities and illegal excavation. One of the judges was fired and charged on seven counts, including money laundering and accepting a bribe.

The related investigation led to a series of other scandals in Greece involving alleged bribery of the judiciary. Specifically, in one pending investigation, Greek authorities claim to have evidence that a local businessman deposited 60,000 Euros (approximately $73,380 in U.S. currency) into an account of a judge from Crete, in order to obtain a favorable ruling. The judge also allegedly vacationed aboard the yacht of another individual over whose case he presided. …