Nicola Sharp of business crime specialists Rahman Ravelli considers the evidence and draws some conclusions.

A report from Transparency International has shown that active enforcement against foreign bribery has dropped sharply since 2018.

According to the report, China, Hong Kong and India did not begin a single foreign bribery investigation between 2016 and 2019.

The report states that the share of global exports from countries that do actively enforce legislation against foreign bribery and money laundering is down by more than a third. According to Transparency International, only four of 47 leading exporters - the United States, Britain, Switzerland and Israel - actively enforced legislation against foreign bribery last year. This is three less than the previous year.

China, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, India and Mexico are named as having the worst track records. But Germany began fewer investigations on 2019 than in previous years, as did Italy and Norway.

Transparency International has called on the urged Group of 20 major economies to do more to tackle the problem. It wants all the countries that signed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention to take steps to remove secrecy surrounding the ownership of companies, make the outcomes of cases public and examine making parent companies more liable for the actions of their subsidiaries.

The report certainly indicates that while the enforcement and resolution of foreign bribery cases in the UK appears to be a significant focus of the Serious Fraud Office - with many large, high-profile cases ongoing at any time – this is not the case in a number of countries.

The apparent regression of enforcement investigations into foreign bribery that is highlighted by the report has to be a cause for concern. It indicates the effect that prioritising business contracts can have on the focus of governments around the world. The short-term gains are given precedence over any consideration of the longer-term damaging effects to the countries involved.

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