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. Comprehensive lists of enforcement actions by the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office and under the US Foreign Corruption Practices Act, are included. These cases highlight the serious consequences that can result when businesses do not take active steps to prevent 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.

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.

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.

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. 

This case study of the AWB class action examines allegations that can be made when a company does not report suspected corruption. 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 news story reports on the 2017 case where 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.