In recent days, serious concerns over the state of bribery in Greece and Britain have been published by the OECD and the Fraud Advisory Panel respectively. The OECD is an international organisation in which governments identify good practices and promote decisions and policies that improve economic and social well-being of people around the world. The Fraud Advisory Panel is an influential charity with members from the public and private sectors and academia. It encourages the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution and deterrence of fraud and corruption.
Greece and the OECD
The OECD Working Group on Bribery expressed serious concerns that recent steps taken by Greece may leave the country in breach of the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention. On 11 June 2019, Greece amended the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes converting the main active bribery offence from a felony to a misdemeanour, a less serious offence. The Working Group is concerned that this amendment may have far-reaching ramifications, ranging from the closure of ongoing corruption-related investigations and prosecutions, to possible hindrance of international cooperation in future cases and shorter limitation periods. The Codes came into force on 1 July 2019.
As a result the Working Group on Bribery will conduct a further review of Greece, jointly with the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), reporting in December 2019. The OECD Working Group will send a letter to the Greek Prime Minister outlining its concerns about the potential impact of the revised anti-corruption criminal measures.
Britain and the Fraud Advisory Panel
The UK has had an anti-corruption strategy since 2017, running until 2022. Its six priorities are:
1. Reduce the insider threat in high risk domestic sectors.
2. Strengthen the integrity of the UK as an international financial centre.
3. Promote integrity across the public and private sectors.
4. Reduce corruption in public procurement and grants.
5. Improve the business environment globally.
6. Work with other countries to combat corruption.
But the Fraud Advisory Panel expresses the concern that the government is not focused on domestic corruption risks. Its report “Hidden in Plain Sight”, published in July 2019, sets out concerns about the attitude to domestic bribery in the UK. The list of high-risk domestic sectors (policing, prisons, border control, defence and local authorities) has some “surprising” omissions, including finance, central government itself, and the democratic process. Quoting Corruption Watch, the report suggests that Austerity is itself a driver for corruption and that, although the UK is a world leader in addressing overseas corruption, it is failing to confront and deal with the situation at home. There is no doubt that with decreased resources in policing and prosecuting authorities’ budgets, fraud and corruption is not a priority. A piece of research at Manchester University states that from 2016-2018 there has been an average of 2-3 bribery cases, per police force, per year reported in the UK (327 in total) of which a third resulted in a definite outcome. This data is at odds with the growing evidence of money-laundering and fraud domestically and overseas corruption committed by British companies.
Both reports highlight ongoing worries about how governments approach the problem of bribery in fact, in contrast to the stated aims to eradicate corruption both domestically and internationally.
Amanda Pinto QC
33 Chancery Lane
Members of Chambers frequently advise individuals, corporates and law enforcement agencies domestically and internationally in relation to money laundering, alleged bribery and corruption and responding to investigations in civil and criminal matters. To find out more, or to instruct us, please contact Martin Adams or Chris Chiles or call 020 7440 9950.