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Bribery of foreign officials will become a crime in February

Last hurdle for entry into force of OECD Convention removed

The bribery of foreign public officials to win or retain business will become a criminal offence in more than a dozen industrialised countries in February 1999. Yesterday’s ratification by the Canadian legislature of the OECD Convention criminalising corruption abroad has removed the last hurdle for its entry into force. In Canada, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and a number of other industrialised countries*, prosecutors will have the authority to pursue the suspected corrupt behaviour of their companies abroad.

"As of February next year, companies from the industrialised countries will have to do their business abroad under a totally different legal framework," said Peter Eigen, chairman of Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog which has played a key role in bringing about the treaty. He cautioned that the OECD Convention "must now be brought to life by effective implementation and a vigorous enforcement regime", will itself review the adequacy of that process. Transparency International also expressed its regret that several major countries had failed to complete the ratification of the convention within the agreed timeframe. However, TI expects that all other member countries of the OECD will ratify the Convention in the first half of 1999.

The OECD Convention is a milestone in efforts started by the OECD in 1994 to reach common international standards to protect the markets from the distortions caused by corruption. "Beyond the criminalisation of corrupt acts abroad, it is now time to also improve accounting and auditing standards, end tax deductibility of bribe payments and act against the abuse of offshore financial centres for shady business practices," Eigen added.

"We also look forward to the day when only companies from countries which have made foreign bribery illegal are considered eligible to bid for major government contracts around the world," the TI Chairman said.

Notes:

* Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, South Korea


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