Foreign bribery laws are starting to bite


By Nicole Matrai.

Australian companies or individuals that bribe an official in a foreign country can be prosecuted under Australian law and the laws of foreign countries.

Six people and two companies related to Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, recently became the first to be charged under Australian foreign bribery laws.

On 1 July 2011, two Australian companies were charged – Securency International Pty Ltd and Note Printing Australia Limited (NPA) – and six Victorian individuals with bribery of foreign public officials.The charges relate to alleged bribes paid to public officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam between the dates of 1999-2005 in order to secure banknote contracts.

On the same day these charges were laid, new United Kingdom (UK) foreign bribery laws came into force that will impact on Australian companies that “carry on business or part of a business in the UK (wherever it is incorporated or formed).”

It is incumbent on any company and its officers, including security and risk professionals to be aware of Australian, and the new UK foreign bribery laws. This article suggests risk management tools and strategies available to avoid breaching these laws.

Australian law

The Offence

The offence of bribing a foreign public official is contained in section 70.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). Importantly, the offence applies regardless of the outcome or result of the bribe or the alleged necessity of the payment.


The offence applies where the conduct constituting the offence occurs wholly or partly in Australia, or wholly or partly on board an Australian aircraft or ship.

It also applies to conduct committed wholly outside Australia where, at the time of the alleged offence, the person who is alleged to have committed the offence is:

  • An Australian citizen
  • A resident of Australia or
  • A body corporate incorporated by or under a law of the Commonwealth or a State or Territory

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