The Irish Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr Alan Shatter, today 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 – the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889.
In so doing the Minister has lost no time in including measures recommended by the Mahon Tribunal report, published just under 3 months ago.
What are the highlights?
No more hiding behind agents and companies
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. Directors and managers who "wilfully neglect" the commission of an offence will be criminally liable. Persons in high office come under the microscope
Where a public official maintains a standard of living "above that commensurate with official remuneration" or has control of a disproportionate amount of property, then there will be 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 decision of the public official. Trading in influence is outlawed
Employing an intermediary to bribe or corrupt a public official is to be expressly outlawed, meaning no more turning a blind eye to what one's agents are up to. Disclosure of confidential information is outlawed
Disclosure by a public official of confidential information for gain is outlawed. A little like tipping off in the case of insider dealing on a stock market, an official tipping off a property developer of development plans and proposals will be criminalised. Punishments for bribery are widened
Unlimited fines now apply for all bribery and corruption offences under the Act. The holder of a public office will be subject to removal from that office – including elected office – and barring from office for 10 years. Pensions cannot be forfeited (due to a Supreme Court decision on the constitutional right to property) but the possibility of unlimited fines provides scope to achieve the same economic effect. The draft legislation also provides for good-faith disclosures or whistleblowing, but these appear likely to be subsumed into the Protected Disclosures in the Public Interest Bill, when it is finalised.
What does it mean for business?
In summary it will mean two things: first, a need...