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Bribery Act: what is it?

Some commentators believe that the Bribery Act, which becomes law this April, will require businesses to undergo a major change in the way in which they operate.

This is true for those companies that do not already have effective systems in place to try to prevent corruption, but for those that already have best practice anti-corruption policies and procedures, the law will not trigger any major change. Instead it will serve as a useful legal deterrent and help to reinforce the company’s existing practices.

Don’t forget to also read our guide on how you and your business should prepare for the Bribery Act.

What’s the objective of the new Act?

The objective of the Act is to tackle the serious issue of major corporate corruption by UK companies. It does not aim to prosecute every individual that makes a minor “grease” payment to a corrupt foreign customs official. Therefore, a common sense approach is required; if a reasonable person in the UK would consider an individual or company’s actions to be corruption to obtain business advantage, then the act is likely to be an offence under the new Act and at risk of prosecution.

Who will the new law affect? 

The new law applies to any company carrying on any part of their business in the UK, regardless of whether the company is British or not and regardless of where in the world the bribery takes place.

What is the offence of bribery under the new law? 

A person will commit the offence of bribery if they:

  • actively offer, promise or give a bribe;
  • request or accept a bribe from another person; or
  • bribe a foreign public official.

Your company would also commit the offence of bribery if anyone performing services on behalf of your company pays a bribe in order to obtain a business advantage for your company, and your company has failed to prevent this happening.

Tamsin Hayward is a solicitor in Keystone’s Commercial Team.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances.  Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published.  

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