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If you are a company or partnership operating in the UK, you need to consider your risks of bribery and the measures needed to prevent wrongdoing

Knowing how to protect your business from bribery and corruption is especially relevant if you are planning to expand your business to operate overseas and in areas where corruption is a problem. If you are a company or partnership operating in the UK, you need to consider your risks of bribery and the measures needed to prevent wrongdoing.

Who is covered by the Bribery Act

The Bribery Act has global reach and applies to UK nationals and residents, companies or partnerships operating in the UK, wherever incorporated.

This means that strict anti-bribery laws go with you, your employees, agents and anyone working on your behalf when you travel overseas and you put yourself and your company or partnership at risk of prosecution if you use bribery (in whatever form) when pursuing business, anywhere in the world.

Failing to prevent bribery

Under Section 7 of the Bribery Act, a relevant commercial organisation (a company or partnership) can be criminally liable for failure to prevent bribery if a person associated with their organisation bribes another person in pursuit of business objectives.

If a person associated with a company or partnership engages in conduct which amounts to an offence under Section 1 (active bribery) or Section 6 (bribery of a foreign public official) of the Bribery Act, intending to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business, that company or partnership could be liable to prosecution for failing to prevent bribery.

Adequate Procedures

If bribery occurs in your company or partnership, you may be investigated by the ICU if the alleged bribe is in relation to business conducted overseas.

Your company or partnership may have a legal defence against Section 7 of the Bribery Act if it can show that it had adequate procedures in place to prevent persons associated with it from bribing.

There is a large amount of publicly available information, guidance and training materials on adequate procedures for the prevention of bribery.

An excellent starting point is the Ministry of Justice Bribery Act Guidance which sets out six principles for the prevention of bribery. These are Proportionate Procedures, Top-Level Commitment, Risk Assessment, Due Diligence, Communication (including training) and Monitoring and Review.

Whether or not a commercial organisation has adequate procedures to prevent bribery will ultimately be a question for the courts to decide.


Facilitation payments

Small-scale payments paid to secure routine government action, sometimes referred to as facilitation or facilitating payments, are regarded as bribes under Bribery Act and are therefore illegal.

Any requests for such payments should be documented and reported within your company or partnership. You may also wish to report such requests to the relevant British Embassy or Consulate office in the country where the request was made.

Hospitality, gifts and promotional expenditure

Hospitality, gifts and promotional expenditure are not prohibited, unless they are intended as a bribe.

For further information please read the guidance on what UK prosecutors would take into account when considering whether to prosecute in these areas.

Further information


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