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Ireland’s Laws for Combating International Bribery need Urgent Reform PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Ireland still needs to make substantial progress on key recommendations issued three times since March 2007 by the OECD Working Group on Bribery with regard to improving its domestic criminal law as it applies to bribery by Irish individuals and companies in their international business transactions. As a party to the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, Ireland is subject to systematic monitoring by the Working Group on how well it implements the requirements of the Convention. The Working Group comprises the 41 parties to the Convention. 

In December 2013, the Working Group urged Ireland to make several changes to its domestic criminal law without delay to rectify three major weaknesses in how foreign bribery is addressed. Ireland is subject to enhanced reporting to the Working Group on account of its failure to address these weaknesses.

First, Ireland has failed to act on recommendations to consolidate and harmonise its two foreign bribery offences. Those offences, one in the Prevention of Corruption Act 2001 (as amended) and the other in its Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Offences Act 2001, potentially contravene each other and carry substantially different maximum prison sentences – 10 years and 5 years respectively.

Secondly, Ireland has failed to act on recommendations to review its law on corporate criminal liability, with a view to modernising and codifying it, so that it can be effectively applied to cases where senior managers of companies use subordinate employees to bribe. Ireland continues to rely on the common law “identification” principle, which the Working Group considers inadequate for the purpose of addressing many of the most frequent bribery methodologies.

Thirdly, Ireland has not acted on the Working Group’s recommendation to ensure that its money laundering offence in the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 applies to Irish companies and individuals that launder the proceeds of bribing foreign public officials, even if the country where the bribery takes place does not have a foreign bribery offence, which is often the case for countries that are not party to the Convention.

The Working Group’s recommendations are pressing, particularly considering that, since Ireland ratified the Convention in 2003, it has not prosecuted even one case of foreign bribery. On 3 October 2016, the Minister of Justice and Equality and Deputy Prime-Minister responded to letters sent by the Working Group to her, and to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, regarding the longstanding unimplemented recommendations. The Working Group welcomes the Deputy Prime-Minister’s assurances of Ireland’s strong commitment to the Convention, and notes that the legislative reform is advancing. The Working Group urges Ireland to ensure that the relevant recommendations are fully implemented through the Act of Parliament.

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