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Executives question SFO appetite for enforcement

Business re-examine investment in compliance

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Executives are re-examining investment in compliance after doubts grow over the Serious Fraud Office’s appetite for enforcing the new anti-bribery laws because of a lack of prosecutions, new research showed on Sunday.

A year on since the UK Bribery Act – considered to be some of the toughest anti-corruption laws in the world – came into force and just over a quarter of executives polled by Ernst & Young think the SFO are willing to prosecute bribery and corruption cases.

Ahead of the Bribery Act coming into law on 1 July 2011 the former head of the SFO Richard Alderman warned companies that the fraud squad would come down hard on them if they suspected corruption.

But, Jonathan Middup, UK head of Ernst & Young’s anti-bribery corruption team, said “a year without a corporate prosecution has left some feeling like it’s a phoney war”.

Five cases of bribery and corruption against UK companies were completed under the old laws, according to Ernst & Young’s UK Bribery digest, although there have been no prosecutions under the new Act.

Despite attention focusing on the fight against foreign bribery and corruption risks, EY’s analysis showed that four of tho five completed cases involved UK corruption in ‘business-to-business’ bribery.

EY said “this is despite a perception among UK executives that bribery and corruption rarely happens on home soil”.

“The cases we have seen clearly show that bribery and corruption is happening on home soil, that private sector bribery is a major risk for companies, and that individuals are exposed,” Middup said.

Last month the fraud agency abandoned its long-running probe into property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz, bringing to an ignominious end an error-strewn investigation that has dented the SFO’s reputation. The decision to drop the case came less than a month after David Green, the SFO’s new director, took up his role.

Read also:

The Editor's blog - Bribery Act could deliver an "unpleasant surprise"

Interview with former SFO chief Richard Alderman


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