By Jaan Larner, Consultant Solicitor, Keystone Law

The Bribery Act 2010 came into effect on 1 July 2011, creating four offences:

- the offering, promising or giving of a bribe;

- the requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting of a bribe;

- bribing a foreign official;

- failure by a commercial organisation to prevent a bribe being paid or received on its behalf.

Businesses and individuals need to ensure that they take adequate steps to make certain that they and their staff are aware of the provisions and comply with them in order to avoid the criminal penalties that apply.

The Act covers bribery in the UK and abroad by all businesses in both the public and private sectors.

The maximum penalty jail term for an individual increases from seven to ten years.

A commercial organisation could face an unlimited fine and company directors will face lengthy disqualification periods.

When deciding whether a bribe has been paid, the courts will use the test of the opinion of a reasonable person in the UK, so beware of simply following local custom when making payments abroad.

Your business can also be guilty of an offence if one of its employees, agents or another person associated with your business pays or receives a bribe on your behalf, so you need to make sure the culture of your business adopts an affirmatively anti-bribery stance and staff are under no illusions as to what is acceptable.

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