Australia’s anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws appear simple in expression but have proved illusive in securing successful prosecutions. The structure of the foreign bribery offense is complicated and requires numerous physical and mental elements to be established for each limb of the offense. Since 1999 when Australia enacted its foreign bribery laws, there have been several corporate and individual guilty pleas in foreign bribery cases but as yet no contested trials. The first case in 2011 arising out of the Securency banknote printing scandal has concluded with mixed results: several plea deals yet other prosecutions permanently stayed due to illegal conduct on the part of the investigative agencies. Other more recent cases have started but are early in the criminal justice system. The traditional approach of the Australian prosecutors is that once charges are laid, they expect a guilty plea to the offense charged or an agreed lesser offenses and then any discount is a matter for the sentencing court. Australia still lacks a structured approach to complex commercial crime including foreign bribery. While there are reforms pending before the Australian government on changes to the foreign bribery offense deferred prosecution agreements, a strict liability corporate offense of failing to prevent foreign bribery, and enhanced private sector whistle-blower laws, they are yet to be implemented. While resources at the Commonwealth level have improved over the years, they remain diffuse, underfunded, and under-resourced. Australian business is starting to adopt a more proactive response to manage offshore risk and the expected legislative reforms are pushing this along. Australian business increasingly knows it must address these issues in a global economy as its most significant trading partners are taking a similarly tough stand against bribery and corruption.
Keywords: benefit, foreign public official, not legitimately due, business advantage, facilitation payment, improperly influencing, associate, deferred prosecution agreements, whistle-blower and protections
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