Ernst and Young report that companies (of all sizes) are frequently failing to take appropriate steps to respond and reduce their risk exposure; particularly when expanding into new markets. One in five companies does not identify third parties as part of its anti-corruption due diligence, one in three does not assess country or industry-specific corruption risks before investing and only half use technologies such as forensic data analysis to identify and mitigate risks.
If this is an accurate picture of UK business’ approach to bribery and corruption, it is a little alarming. It also makes it essential that everyone in “UK PLC’’ knows how to respond if investigated over bribery and corruption allegations.
At Rahman Ravelli, our track record when it comes to defending companies against bribery and corruption allegations is impressive. Costs for being convicted of such wrongdoing can run into millions – possibly billions – so making the right decisions when it comes to contesting such allegations can prove extremely valuable.
In the UK, the Bribery Act has been in effect for five years. This Act makes all UK businesses responsible for the commercial activities of their staff, agents and representatives anywhere in the world – meaning a huge potential risk of prosecution.
In the past year, the National Crime Agency has set up its International Corruption Unit (ICU) to tackle serious bribery, corruption and money laundering around the world. The ICU brings together all the NCA’s bribery work, along with that of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police, with the intention of bringing UK nationals and companies who indulge in bribery to justice.
Bribery is high on the law enforcement agencies’ agenda. So how do you defend yourself if faced with bribery and corruption allegations?
The short answer is to put up the strongest possible fight. But when it comes to fighting allegations of bribery, the best chance of success comes when you have experience and expertise on your side. These are the best two weapons you can have when it comes to battling the authorities who are alleging wrongdoing.
If you are at the stage when allegations of bribery and corruption have been made, the opportunity for introducing preventative measures has gone. It is now about assessing, challenging and demolishing the prosecution arguments.
At Rahman Ravelli, we place great emphasis on assembling experienced teams of defence experts specially-tailored to each and every client who faces an allegation of bribery and corruption. The scope of the Bribery Act makes such an approach imperative: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to defending such allegations and each case requires forensic analysis and subsequent challenging of every aspect of a prosecution’s claims.
We have always held the view that whatever the size, nature and location of the corruption allegation, each one has to be treated individually.
When a prosecution makes a bribery case against a person or company, it will put the worst possible interpretation on whatever material it plans to use as evidence. The defence task is to reduce the credibility of the prosecution claims.
This can be done by producing evidence of your own which contradicts that being put forward by the prosecution. It can also involve careful analysis of the material that the prosecution has at its disposal – even including that which it does not intend to use as evidence – in order to pick holes or discover inconsistencies in the allegations.
Such an approach can be boosted by the use of an expert witness; who can be used to vouch for the legitimacy of what the accused did or to tackle the claims and assumptions being made by the prosecution.
Such techniques can be very involved and will vary from case to case, so there is little point in writing and exhaustive list her of every potentially tactical move that could be employed by a shrewd defence team. However, what certainly should be emphasised is that selecting the right legal firm to defend you can often prove to be the first and most important blow to the chances of a prosecution succeeding.