British Execs come clean over corruption

Date: 15-05-2008
Source: The Times

British executives are twice as likely to be corrupt as their French or German counterparts, research has suggested.

Ernst & Young's (E&Y) biennial survey of senior executives found that, while business practices appear to be far worse in Asia and Latin America than in Western Europe, one in eight British business leaders admit that they have paid bribes or have been involved in other corrupt dealings over the past two years, double the figures in France and Germany. The admissions come as governments in Western Europe and the United States prepare to enforce stronger anti-corruption legislation.

Yet companies seem to be under increasing pressure to pay bribes to retain work. One in four global businesses admitted to having paid bribes in the past two years, while one in five business leaders alleged that they had lost work to a competitor who had paid a bribe.

John Smart, global head of fraud investigations at E&Y, said: "In the UK we have a lot of international companies which operate outside UK boundaries and outside Western Europe. The experience outside Europe and North America is that both paying and receiving bribes is much more prevalent." Just over one in ten British business leaders said that their organisations had been approached to pay a bribe, compared with one in six German executives.

The findings follow the political furore surrounding the Serious Fraud Office's decision to drop an investigation into BAE's dealings with Saudi Arabia. It is alleged that BAE established a slush fund to bribe Saudi officials in the 1980s. The company has denied the allegations.

Siemens, the German engineer, has paid Euro 239million in fines stemming from a bribery scandal uncovered in late 2006 and Euro 520million in tax charges. Cases against individual Siemens employees are pending throughout Germany.

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