The following article appeared in The Irish Times on 2 July 2012.
Legal Update: The Minister for Justice and Equality recently published the draft scheme of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill 2012, 123 years after the enactment of the statute that is the basis of our current law.
In so doing, Alan Shatter included measures recommended by the Mahon tribunal report, published three months ago.
Bribery and corrupt practices by employees and agents of a company are to be automatically imputed to the company. Companies must "take all reasonable steps" and "exercise all due diligence" to avoid criminal liability.
Extravagant lifestyles of public officials will now carry a presumption that the public official is living off bribes. Intimidation of a public official is to be an offence, if motivated by a wish to corrupt the public official's decisions.
Employing an intermediary to bribe or corrupt a public official is to be expressly outlawed.
Disclosure by a public official of confidential information for gain is outlawed, for example, tipping off to facilitate insider dealing.
Punishments for bribery are to be widened so that unlimited fines now apply for all bribery offences.
Public officeholders will be subject to removal from office – including elected office – for up to 10 years. Pensions cannot be forfeited (for constitutional reasons) but unlimited fines give scope to achieve the same economic effect.
In summary, it will mean two things for business: first, a need to design and operate proportionate structures and procedures to prevent corruption. Secondly, it will involve challenges for companies with overseas activities.
The new law will require companies to "take all reasonable steps" and "exercise all due diligence" to prevent bribery and corrupt behaviour by directors, employees, subsidiaries and agents anywhere in the world.