01 August 2016

Anti-bribery and corruption guide: United Kingdom

"Developments such as the sentencing of the Sweett Group plc to a fine of £2.25m in February 2016 for securing and retaining contracts in Dubai through bribery committed by its UAE subsidiary and the creation of the UK’s International Corruption Unit mark a maturing of the UK’s anti-corruption enforcement regime. In addition, the continued growth of investment opportunities in high risk jurisdictions means that prevention and detection policies are still critically important for UK business."

Ian Hargreaves


1. What is bribery?

The enactment of the UK Bribery Act 2010 (the “Act”) has codified the previously fragmented law in England and Wales in respect of the offence of bribery, and establishes:

  • ƒƒtwo general criminal offences of giving or receiving a bribe or other advantage (including offering, requesting or agreeing to accept the same);
  • ƒƒa specific offence of bribery of foreign public officials; and
  • ƒƒa new corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery by anyone who is associated with a commercial organisation and performs services on its behalf.

2. What are the exceptions/defences?

A business could avoid conviction under the corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery if it can show that it had adequate procedures in place designed to prevent bribery. There is no exception under English law for facilitation payments.

3. What are the sanctions?

Sanctions include unlimited fines for companies and imprisonment for up to 10 years for individuals. Since 2014, the Serious Fraud Office added to its enforcement armoury when it became able to enter into Deferred Prosecution Agreements (“DPAs”) with corporates guilty of economic crimes. Under a DPA, proceedings are instituted but then deferred on terms (such as the payment of a financial penalty, compensation and implementation of a compliance programme). If the terms of the agreement are met in the agreed period, proceedings are discontinued. However, if the terms of the agreement are breached the prosecution can be recommenced. It should also be noted that in October 2014, sentencing guidelines on financial penalties for companies convicted of economic crimes came into force. These guidelines are used to inform the level of any financial penalty that forms part of a DPA or in sentencing anyone found guilty of an offence under the Act.

More from the Anti-Bribery and Corruption Guide:

Australia, Belgium, ChinaFrance, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain and United Arab Emirates.



A Guide to Doing Business in China

We explore the key issues being considered by clients looking to unlock investment opportunities in the People’s Republic of China.

Doing Business in China

Anti-Bribery and Corruption - An International Guide

The International Anti-Bribery and Corruption Guide is also available as a PDF.

The guide covers the regimes in the following regions: Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, China Hong Kong SAR, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, UAE and UK.

Anti-Bribery and Corruption - An International Guide
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