By Tom Cardamone
7 July 2011
As the UK Bribery Act went into effect this month the U.S. Congress, at the behest of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, considers whether to dilute the landmark Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). At the same time a court case in a U.S. District Court in Washington highlights why the FCPA is so important.
In 2009 an FBI sting operation resulted in the arrest of 22 businessmen on charges of bribing a public official in order to obtain a contract to equip Gabon's Presidential Guard. The "contract" would have included the sale of everything from night vision goggles to grenades. The reason this case is worthy of note is because it was the first instance of an FBI undercover operation to investigate bribery of foreign government officials and was an indication that the US Justice Department believed that the problem of bribe paying had gotten out of hand. Indeed, at the time the arrests were made U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips noted that "These indictments set forth serious allegations and reflect the Department's commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who try to advance their businesses through foreign bribery."
The six-week trial on these charges could be completed as early as today. A conviction of the accused will give credence to the enhanced effort the FBI and Justice Department have put into FCPA enforcement and will hopefully send a message to those in Congress who are considering weakening the law. As the rest of the world strengthens its anti corruption efforts this is no time for the US to make the world safer for those businesses that would offer bribes in order to obtain contracts.
Tom Cardamone is the managing director for Global Financial Integrity.
Copyright, TrustLaw, 2011. Original article available here.