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Bribery

Illicit Enrichment uncovered – and discovering the best ways to fight it

When a modestly paid public official is suddenly able to take lavish holidays, buy a new sports car, or purchase expensive jewelry it raises eyebrows - and suspicion. Corruption may be suspected but it is often frustratingly difficult to prove – so what is the best way to deal with the sources of unknown wealth?

‘Illicit enrichment’ poses a legal and practical challenge for authorities around the world. One option is to criminalize the offence, meaning in practice that the prosecution does not have to prove that the assets come from corrupt behavior, but simply cannot be justified from legitimate sources of income.  The public official then has to provide evidence of the legitimate source of the mysterious new found wealth, and if it cannot be adequately explained then suffer the legal consequences.

Caught bribing foreign officials: Have you ever wondered where the money companies pay in sanctions is ending up?

A decade ago, prosecutions of companies for paying bribes abroad were rare.  Today, you can open the business section of almost any major newspaper and find a story about a company under investigation for bribery of foreign officials.
The good news is that these prosecutions are truly on the rise globally.  While the United States has continued to lead the field, the authorities in many countries have now succeeded in holding companies liable for foreign bribery or closely-related offenses.  To name a few, these include the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway.  Even some international institutions, such as the World Bank, are also moving towards such negotiated resolutions – but those private administrative actions are not the topic of this blog.

The bribes being paid to foreign officials often amount to more than just small change. Credit: Incurable_Hippie, Flickr Creative Commons

Have we seen a lot of trials?   Not at all.  Around the world, the preferred method of resolving foreign bribery cases is not through trials in court, but rather through shorter court procedures, plea bargains and other forms of mutual resolution.   Even in civil law countries.