Liability for corruption

Liability for individuals:

  • Those directly involved:  Individuals may incur criminal liability for a corruption offence if they are directly involved in the offence.  For example, if you submit a claim for payment which you know or suspect contains false statements which wrongly inflate the claim, you may be liable for fraud.  Or if you personally pay a bribe in order to induce a person to act improperly, you may be liable for bribery.
  • Those indirectly involved:  Individuals may be liable where they are indirectly involved in the offence.  For example, if you are sales director and your organisation appoints an agent on a success fee arrangement, and the agent then pays a bribe to the client to help your organisation win a contract, you may be liable for bribery if you arranged the appointment of the agent and knew or suspected that a bribe would be paid, even though you did not personally authorise or pay the bribe.
  • Those in authority:  If you are a person in authority, such as a chief executive, director, or manager, you may be liable for a corruption offence even where you were not directly involved in committing the offence, but where you either:
    • expressly authorised the offence or that type of offence, or
    • knew or suspected that the offence would be committed by someone under your management control and were wilfully blind to it.

In the latter case, such liability may arise where, for example, a chief executive suspects that the organisation’s employees may pay bribes on a project but takes no action to prevent them doing so.

  • Aiding and abetting: Helping in the commission of an offence may itself be an offence if you knew or suspected that an offence was being committed.  For example, a lawyer who drafts an agreement whilst knowing that the document is part of a fraud may be liable for fraud.  Or an accountant who approves or implements a payment whilst suspecting that it is going to be used to pay a bribe, may be liable for bribery.
Liability for organisations:

  • If a senior employee commits a corruption offence on behalf of her/his organisation or in order to benefit her/his organisation, then both the employee and the organisation may be liable for the offence. For example, if a sales director authorises or pays a bribe to ensure his organisation wins a contract, then both the sales director and his organisation may be liable for a bribery offence.
  • In some jurisdictions, an organisation may be liable for a bribery or fraud offence committed by a person (e.g. an employee, agent, sub-contractor or supplier) on behalf of or for the benefit of the organisation if the organisation did not take reasonable steps to ensure that the bribe would not be paid or the fraud would not be committed.

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1st April 2024