It is an offence for a company to bribe another with the intent of obtaining or retaining business or to gain an advantage in business. Interiors Ltd were the first to be convicted of this offence for failing to have adequate provisions in place to prevent bribery. As a result, two directors of the company received prison sentences for offences under the Act. The prosecution was brought after the company paid a large fee to gain access to confidential information to give them an advantage for a business related project. A new CEO at the company brought in a new anti-bribery policy, and also launched an internal investigation when he found out about the arrangement.
Despite the new policy being put in place, one of the directors still tried to make the final payment on the arrangement. The two directors were charged with offences under sections 1 and 2 of the Bribery Act. One was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, the other was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment, and both were disqualified as being directors for 6 and 7 years. Because the company self-reported themselves, they could potentially have been offered an agreement to pay a fine so that they wouldn’t be prosecuted at all. In this case, the Judge did question whether it was appropriate to continue with the prosecution, but it did proceed in order to send a message to small companies that bribery needs to be taken very seriously, and to make sure that procedures and policies are put into place.
A company must demonstrate their efforts to prevent bribery. This company’s defence was that they had ‘adequate provision’ in place but they were convicted after trial.
If you would like to find out what your business can do, guidance is available from the Ministry of Justice regarding the types of bribery prevention procedures that companies should have in place. You can view these at:
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