(March 24, 2004) Allegations of bribery and corruption by British companies and individuals overseas are far more common than published government figures suggest, an investigation by the Financial Times has found. More than 20 allegations have been registered by government agencies since February 2002 when a new law made such offences easier to prosecute in the UK. The National Criminal Intelligence Service has received 17 allegations, more than four times the number cited in a written parliamentary answer last October. Six allegations have been logged by the Ministry of Defence.
Only a small number has been investigated. The Metropolitan Police has taken on two cases passed on by the NCIS, and the Serious Fraud Office has opened a formal inquiry into one case involving alleged bribery of an overseas public official. The SFO is considering two requests by overseas law enforcement agencies for help on corruption allegations.
Campaigners said news of the allegations would increase the pressure on ministers to explain why no prosecutions had yet been brought under the new law.
Susan Hawley, a consultant to The Corner House, a think-tank, said: “It is extremely worrying that despite the number of allegations there have been no prosecutions and so few investigations.”
Laurence Cockroft, chairman of Transparency International UK, said: “We aren’t going to see a real change in corporate behaviour until there are some high-profile cases.”
Jean Eaglesham, Financial Times