OECD condemns big business bribery

Rich countries have a bigger bribery problem than the developing world. [Chris Potter/Flickr]

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has examined 427 cases of foreign bribery since 1999. In Europe, Germany appears to be the worst affected. EURACTIV France reports

The phenomenon of cross-border bribery is not unique to the developing world. According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), published on 2 December, almost half of all cases of bribery involve the public servants of developed countries.

The report states that most international bribes come from big businesses, and are generally offered in return for contracts with state-owned or state-controlled companies. This practice is commonplace in developed economies, and the majority of the bribers, and the recipients of bribes, come from rich countries.

The most common beneficiaries of bribes are the employees of publically-owned companies (27%) and customs officials (11%). The aim, in over half of the cases investigated by the OECD (57%), was to win public contracts or customs clearance (12%). Four sectors stand out for their susceptibility to bribery: the extractive industries, construction, transport and logistics, and information and communication.

>> Read: France demands greater transparency from extractive industries

In 41% of the cases examined, bribes were offered by the company’s senior management, with the CEO themselves implicated in 12% of cases. The largest bribe identified by the OECD was 1.4 billion dollars (1.1 billion euro).

Germany: Europe’s leader in tackling bribery

The United States has handed down 128 convictions for bribery, the most of any country. In second place is Germany, with 26, followed by South Korea, with 11, and Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, with six each.

France comes in seventh place, with five convictions, a figure that has made Paris the subject of severe criticism from the European Commission. In February, the executive published a report, in which it pointed out the rarity of convictions in France, and called into question the independence of the French judicial system.

The Commission’s report also stated that corruption within the EU costs the European economy 120 billion euros per year, or 1% of GDP; slightly less than the EU’s budget.

>> Read: EU anti-corruption report stops short of ‘naming and shaming’

French Justice Minister wants to stigmatise corruption

In its report, the OECD stated its support for financial sanctions in proven cases of bribery, as well as the confiscation of the proceeds of crime. The French Minister for Justice, Christiane Taubira, said that “in addition to financial compensation, we also need stigmatisation and publicity campaigns in order to discourage corruption”.

The OECD will also continue to put pressure on countries to strengthen their anti-corruption legislation, while seeking to ensure the protection of whistleblowers.

>> Read: Ombudsman pushes for more protection for EU whistleblowers

So far, 17 of the 41 signatory countries of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention have carried out successful convictions for transnational bribery. A total of 261 fines have been handed down to individuals and corporations, the heaviest of which was worth €1.8 billion.

The OECD is cautiously optimistic. The number of enforcement actions for bribery is falling, but 390 cases remain open. The organisation said this was “surely only the tip of the iceberg”. 

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