In many countries, bribery and corruption are commonplace. IKEA recently ceased its expansion in Russia, for example, because of the difficulties in obtaining permission to build new stores without being willing to engage in corrupt practices. 'Sweeteners’ for deals are a necessity or near-necessity in some countries.
From next year, however, UK businesses engaging in bribery to obtain business will face stiff penalties if they are caught. The Bribery Act 2010 received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010. The Act was originally scheduled to come into force in October: however, this has now been delayed until April 2011 in order to give companies more time to prepare for its introduction.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Justice said that the Government 'will launch a short consultation exercise on the guidance about procedures which commercial organisations can put in place to prevent bribery on their behalf' in September. The guidance will be published early next year.
It is an offence under the Act to bribe another person or to allow oneself to be bribed, and specifically it is an offence to bribe foreign public officials. These offences are punishable by an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The Act also makes failing to prevent bribery an offence punishable by an unlimited fine.