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Foreign bribery

The Australian Government takes a strong stance against foreign bribery and other forms of corruption.

Bribery of a public foreign official (foreign bribery) is a serious criminal offence that carries heavy penalties.

Foreign bribery results in inefficient allocation of resources and economic distortions. It is a threat to democracy and the rule of law, corrosive of good governance and an impediment to economic development. Foreign bribery by Australians and Australian businesses can damage our international standing and shrink the global market for Australian exports and investment.

Section 70.2 of the schedule to the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Criminal Code) makes it an offence to bribe a foreign public official. In December 2019, the government introduced the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Corporate Crime) Bill 2019 into the Senate. The Bill proposes, amongst other measures, a new corporate offence of failure to prevent foreign bribery. It also proposes to remove undue impediments to the successful prosecution of foreign bribery by expanding and clarifying the scope of the foreign bribery offence.

International cooperation is required to effectively combat foreign bribery by ensuring that countries adopt common rules. Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions (Working Group) and a party to the key international conventions concerned with combating foreign bribery:

OECD Working Group on Bribery

The OECD Working Group on Bribery monitors implementation and enforcement of the Anti-Bribery Convention and provides comprehensive information about global anti-corruption initiatives.

Australia's anti-foreign bribery regime is subject to periodic review by the working group. Australia's most recent evaluation occurred in December 2017. The working group found that Australia’s enforcement of its foreign bribery offence had increased markedly since its Phase 3 evaluation in 2012.

The working group publishes a report on each of its reviews. These are available from the OECD website.

Australia’s enforcement of the foreign bribery offence

Australia takes enforcement of the foreign bribery offence seriously. The OECD publishes enforcement data  from the parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention, including Australia, annually.

Concluded foreign bribery cases in Australia are outlined below:

Securency and Note Printing Australia (2011)

In Australia’s first successful foreign bribery prosecution, Securency International Pty Ltd (Securency) and Note Printing Australia Pty Ltd (NPA) each pleaded guilty in October 2011 to three charges of conspiracy to commit foreign bribery. Securency’s offending occurred in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. NPA’s offending occurred in Indonesia, Malaysia and Nepal. In July 2012, Securency was sentenced to fines totalling $480,000 and NPA was sentenced to fines totalling $450,000. The companies also paid a combined total of $21,666,482 in pecuniary penalty orders.

Three individuals were also convicted of conspiracy to bribe a foreign public official, including the former CEO of Securency who was also convicted of false accounting. Two further individuals (including the former CFO of Securency) were also convicted of false accounting.

Find out more about the Securency and Note Printing Australia prosecution.

Lifese (2017)

In September 2017 three individuals were convicted by the NSW Supreme Court of conspiracy to bribe an Iraqi foreign public official to secure infrastructure contracts for their company Lifese Pty Ltd. All three individuals pleaded guilty. One individual, the middle man who facilitated the bribe to the Iraqi foreign public official, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment with a fixed non-parole period of two years. On appeal the remaining two individuals, who were the directors of Lifese, were sentenced to imprisonment for three years and four months with a fixed non-parole period of one year and eight months and fined $250,000 each.

Foreign bribery online learning module

We have developed an online learning module on foreign bribery. The module is intended for use by industry and government, and provides advice on Australia's anti-bribery policy, relevant laws and how they apply, and steps that business can take to help promote compliance.

The foreign bribery online learning module is free to access and supports users with accessibility requirements.

Foreign Bribery Information and Awareness Pack

The Australian Government's Foreign Bribery Information and Awareness Pack provides key information on the offence of bribing a foreign public official and steps for reporting suspected foreign bribery. Fact sheets, brochures and posters from the pack are available to download.

Whole-of-government approach

Australia takes a whole-of-government approach to combating foreign bribery. A summary of the roles and responsibilities of agencies in responding to foreign bribery is outlined in the document below:

The following agencies provide online information and assistance on foreign bribery for business and the public:

​The AFP and CDPP have developed self-reporting of foreign bribery and related offending by corporations guidelines. These explain the principles and processes each agency applies when a corporation self-reports a suspicion of foreign bribery or a related offence.

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