Small bribes, big headaches

bribery and corruption

Even relatively small bribes are taken seriously by the authorities, as the three cases below reveal.

The Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) announced proceedings against Eddie Obeid last Thursday over the former MP’s lobbying efforts, which concerned a series of secretly-owned Circular Quay cafes. The case serves as a fresh reminder that even small bribes can lead to big headaches.

“Just like Al Capone and tax evasion, it might seem ironic that Eddie Obeid, the ultimate NSW powerbroker who pulled off a corrupt $60 million coal scam, goes down for a contract for a couple of lousy restaurants,” Australian Financial Review (AFR) reporter Geoff Winestock commented. The ICAC reports that Obeid may be undone for misusing his position as a Member of Parliament to influence the decisions of public officials, which resulted in favourable outcomes for his businesses. According to the AFR, Obeid hoped to double, or triple, the value of his $2.4 million investments in Circular Quay.

Last July, in the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pursued firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson Holding Corp for a bribe of $11,000 to a Pakistani police department, in order to secure a $107,852 contract. The SEC fined the arms manufacturer $2 million under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Commenting on the case, Bill Michael, co-chairman of Mayer Brown’s global anti-corruption and FCPA practice, told Corporate Counsel the SEC’s decision to chase down Smith & Wesson for a relatively small bribe was indicative of the commission’s hard-line approach on anti-bribery law. “Apparently, no case may be too small,” he said.

And in 2011, Manir Yakub Patel, the first defendant prosecuted under the UK Bribery Act, received a shocking six-year prison sentence for accepting £500 bribe to conceal a traffic summons. At the time, the 22-year-old worked at the Magistrates’ Court as a clerk. His sentence has since been reduced to four years in prison on appeal.

These three cases demonstrate that even relatively minor breaches of the law can lead to criminal investigations, court proceedings and severe penalties. Whether you’re in Australia, Singapore, or the UK, it’s essential you understand and comply with your country’s anti-corruption legislation.

Does your organisation understand and adhere to corporate misconduct and white collar crime laws? Talk to us today about our Anti-Bribery and Corruption courses.

Source: Australian Financial Review, Corporate Counsel