Category: Offences & Enforcement


There is increasing global enforcement of anti-bribery and corruption laws and the consequences imposed can be severe, including significant penalties and reputational damage. Businesses can be liable for the actions of their employees and agents under Australian and foreign laws including under the laws of third party countries. This collection of resources includes Australian and foreign cases that have involved civil and criminal foreign bribery enforcement action against companies and senior corporate office holders, including a comprehensive list of enforcement actions under the US Foreign Corruption Practices Act which extends to businesses that issue registered securities under US law. These cases highlight the serious consequences that can result when businesses do not take active steps to prevent foreign bribery.

The bribery of a public foreign official (foreign bribery) is a serious criminal offence that carries significant penalties. This webpage provides information about the federal foreign bribery offence, previous foreign bribery convictions in Australia and proposed reforms including a new corporate offence for failure to prevent foreign bribery. This webpage also includes fact sheets and an online learning module.

This legislation proposes to strengthen Australia’s enforcement response to foreign bribery. It will introduce a new corporate offence for failure to prevent an associate (such as an employee, agent or subsidiary) from bribing a foreign public official and introduces a Commonwealth deferred prosecution agreement scheme for specified corporate offences related to bribery and other financial crimes.

Exporters need to be aware of the risks of bribery and corruption in international transactions and requirements to comply with laws in multiple jurisdictions. Bribery committed outside Australia can be captured under Australian laws and have serious consequences. Export Finance Australia provides useful links to assist exporters in understanding their obligations to comply with relevant laws against bribery and corruption. 

Company directors and senior managers who are put on notice of possible bribery and corruption issues have a positive duty to make appropriate inquiries. Failure to do so can lead to civil, or even criminal penalties and being banned from managing corporations. This case establishes the duty of officers to investigate when corruption concerns are aired.

In 2011, two subsidiaries of the Reserve Bank of Australia plead guilty to charges of bribing foreign officials in relation to a Malaysian bank during the period of 1999-2004 and were fined over A$22 million. Four employees, including the CEO and CFO of Securency, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to bribe and/or false accounting, each receiving between 6-24 months imprisonment.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, sections 529 and 530 of the Western Australian Criminal Code contain offences for corrupt rewards.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, section 266 of the Tasmanian Criminal Code contains secret commissions offences for corruption in relation to business.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, section 236 of the Northern Territory Criminal Code contains offences for secret commissions.

Bribery and corruption allegations can have serious consequences for companies, including fines, loss of business and reputation, loss of licenses and inability to recover payments. For listed companies, those potential consequences may be material enough to need to be reported to the ASX. This class action case study examines allegations that can be made when a company does not report suspected corruption.

In 2017 three individuals pleaded guilty and were convicted of conspiring to bribe an Iraqi foreign public official to secure infrastructure contracts for their construction company. One, a middleman who facilitated the bribe, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. The other two, directors of the company, were sentenced to imprisonment for three years and four months and fined A$250,000 each.

The United States (US) Department of Justice has an extensive track record of enforcing foreign bribery matters, including against companies that are not registered in the US. This site shows the Department of Justice's foreign bribery enforcement track record.

The United States (US) Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) is the regulator for companies that are listed in, or raise capital in, the US. It frequently brings enforcement action against companies for 'books and records' offences related to foreign bribery.

Foreign bribery is a serious offence attracting significant penalties. Under section 70.2 of the Criminal Code, individuals face a fine of up to AUD$2.2 million and 10 years imprisonment for the bribery of foreign public officials. Companies face even larger fines including up to 10% of their annual turnover. There are also offences for related misconduct, such as false accounting and money laundering.

Australia’s powerful confiscation laws ensure there can be no profit in bribery. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, law enforcement agencies are equipped with a range of powers to trace, restrain and confiscate proceeds of crime against Commonwealth laws such as foreign bribery. Any asset can potentially be subject to confiscation if it is the ‘proceeds' or an 'instrument' of a Commonwealth offence.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, section 249B of the NSW Crimes Act contains offences for corrupt commissions or rewards.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, sections 356 and 357 of the ACT Criminal Code contain offences for bribery and corrupting benefits.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, section 176 of the Victorian Crimes Act contains offences for secret commissions.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, sections 442B and 442BA of the Queensland Criminal Code contain offences for secret commissions.

Liability for bribery and corruption can arise under multiple jurisdictions both inside and outside Australia. In Australia, individuals and corporations can be liable for a range of state and territory offences including offences that apply to conduct in the private sector. For example, section 150 of the South Australian Criminal Law Consolidation Act contains an offence for bribery of a fiduciary.