Foreign bribery amendments to the Criminal Code: Will your organisation be impacted?

  • Failing to prevent foreign bribery by an associate of the corporation will become a criminal offence for the corporation itself with the same penalties as for the substantive offence.
  • Legislation now before Federal Parliament will bring Australia into line with other developed countries by creating a Deferred Prosecution Agreement regime.
  • This article outlines steps an organisation can take prevent an associate from bribing foreign public official.

Shadowy figures conversing behind glass wall

There has been much media attention in recent years surrounding the issue of foreign bribery often involving ‘third world’ countries and ‘first world’ corporations. Reports typically allege money has been paid to foreign public officials by corporations bidding for major infrastructure projects and that these payments were aimed at corrupting the decision-making processes in favour of the bribe payer.

Australia has had foreign bribery legislation since 1999 when the offence of foreign bribery was added to the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Legislation is currently before the Australian parliament which will update existing foreign bribery provisions. Perhaps the most important of the new provisions for Australian corporations operating, or intending to operate off-shore, will be that failing to prevent foreign bribery by an associate of the corporation will become a criminal offence for the corporation itself with the same penalties as for the substantive offence. Under the new provisions, a corporation could become criminally liable for bribe-paying conduct it actually knows nothing about. What will the changes mean for you and your organisation?

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