Be careful about bribery this Christmas

This year the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) tightened up its guidelines to prosecuting the Bribery Act 2010. This means that as Christmas gifts begin to arrive, so does the threat of unwelcome legal action. Saffron Interactive, a provider of premium Bribery Act training, is warning businesses not to be complacent.

In guidelines originally published on its website the white collar crime agency had told companies that ‘reasonable and proportionate’ corporate hospitality would not be prosecuted. Companies who self-report corruption were also assured that they would be punished with civil, rather than criminal penalties. In September both sets of guidance were withdrawn.

‘What was a reasonable Christmas gift last year may be a criminal offence this year,’ says Saffron CEO, Ms. Noorie Sazen. ‘By removing guidelines which softened the tough penalties of the 2010 Act, the SFO has reminded UK businesses not to get caught out this year.’

If an organisation is found to have breached the Act, a full defence can only be launched if it’s demonstrated that you had adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery. Employees must understand the specific risks that they are exposed to as part of their role, rather than a general policy.

Saffron Interactive has developed bespoke Bribery Act and ant-corruption courses for a number of companies including BT, Sir Robert McAlpine, SPI Lasers and KPMG. The company also offers an off-the-shelf course that offers three tiers of guidance to front-line staff members, mid-level and senior management.

‘Given the tougher guidelines, it’s better to prepare now than to pay later,’ advises Ms. Sazen. ‘It’s time to look at the training you have in place and assess whether it’s still adequate given the increased exposure to criminal prosecution by the SFO.’

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Toby Harris - Consultant
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