International - Written by on Monday, May 5, 2014 10:35 - 0 Comments

UK south/north divide – alive and kicking in bribery enforcement

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Highland Games Trebsen 2012By Tom Stocker, Partner, Pinsent Masons LLP

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the SFO has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute suspected bribery cases. They will often work in parallel with the City of London Police corruption unit.

Both the SFO and the City of London Police are specifically funded to tackle bribery cases which tend to involve wading through millions of emails and documents, and taking statements from overseas. In other words, they are expensive cases to investigate and they are difficult to prosecute. Which is why Deferred Prosecution Agreements were introduced. 

Although the SFO is often subject to criticism for a perceived lack of enforcement activity, the SFO has significant bribery investigations under way against Rolls-Royce, Alstom, ENRC and others.

Until recently, enforcement in Scotland seemed active. Weir Group were convicted of breaching sanctions against Iraq by making corrupt payments and in November 2012 Abbot Group Limited entered into a civil settlement with the Scottish Government in respect of corrupt payments by an overseas agent.

Since then enforcement north of the border has been quiet. Crown Office has renewed a self-reporting policy but it is very limited in scope as it only applies to corruption specific offences rather than wider proceeds of crime and fraud offences.

Enforcement statistics for Scotland are not much to get excited about: 

  • Two companies have self-reported breaches of the Bribery Act 2010 to Crown Office
  • There has been one SFO referral to Crown Office of a suspected contravention of the Bribery Act 2010
  • Four incidents of suspected breaches of the Bribery Act 2010 have been investigated by Police Scotland and reported to Crown Office
  • A decision to take no proceeding has been made in one case due to there being insufficient evidence 
  • There are three ongoing criminal investigations by Police Scotland into bribery cases.

Opinion

If the UK is to fulfil its commitments to the OECD and UN, the Scottish Government need to consider whether the police investigations are being properly resourced and for that matter whether Crown Office has sufficient dedicated funds to be an effective enforcer of bribery laws.

Crown Office’s self-reporting policy should be extended or morphed into a kilted version of Deferred Prosecution Agreements and Crown Office need to engage with the business community in the same way as the SFO and City of London police do to encourage self-reporting.

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