Playing Catch-Up on Bribery

The Evening Standard (London, England), November 18, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Playing Catch-Up on Bribery


Byline: Anthony Hilton CITY COMMENT

WHEN Labour came to power in 1997, it talked a lot about how it planned to clamp down on money-laundering and bribery, and promptly signed the OECD convention which committed government signatories to pass and enforce strict laws to that effect.

It moved on the former with a plethora of regulations which have certainly inconvenienced the innocent though they have probably done rather less to deter real money-launderers, while bribery for the most part continued to be governed by laws that have remained substantially unchanged since 1915.

But today with the Queen's Speech providing a timely reminder to all sitting members that it may have only a few months left in office, the Government seemed to signal that it has decided to play catch-up.

Not before time according to some observers, because Britain among developed nations has one of the lowest prosecution rates for the crime -- France and Germany have far more.

Some may say that is because those countries have more to prosecute, but measures such as the transparency index, which plots the willingness of companies to pay bribes to secure business in international markets, suggest that the UK, while by no means the worst, cannot claim to be pure as the driven snow. It suggests some firms and sectors do have a case to answer.

There has also been a draft anti-bribery bill kicking around for some time, but in spite of the traumas of BAE Systems, the case against Balfour Beatty and the saga at Siemens, most companies have not yet taken on board how much their life is going to change.

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