The Irish Times view on international corruption: a loophole needs closing

No prosecution has ever taken place in Ireland for an act of corruption overseas

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan needs to act to close a loophole in a law passed last year designed to combat international corruption. Photograph: Tom Honan

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan needs to act to close a loophole in a law passed last year designed to combat international corruption. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan needs to act to close a loophole in a law passed last year designed to combat international corruption. The Criminal Justice (Corruption Practices) Act 2018 made it an offence for individuals or companies based in Ireland to engage in corruption overseas but a flaw in the legislation has now been exposed.

One of its key provisions was the introduction of fines without limit for companies found guilty of engaging in bribery in other countries. One of the requirements of the law is that the offence must be a crime both in Ireland and in the country where the alleged bribery occurred. This requirement is called dual criminality. The OECD, which devised the international convention on corruption, is concerned that the dual criminality provision could effectively neuter the effort to combat international bribery and will review the effectiveness of the Irish legislation in October. The Department of Justice has cited advice from the Attorney General as the reason why the dual criminality provision was required in the Irish law.

The flaw in this approach was highlighted by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau in a letter to the Department of Justice last year. It pointed out that if Irish individuals or companies operated in a jurisdiction where anti-corruption legislation is weak or non-existent, then no offence would occur no matter how strong the anti-corruption laws in this country.

In fact no prosecution has ever taken place in Ireland for an act of foreign corruption. A document published last November by the OECD showed that Ireland, which accounts for 1.68 per cent of the world’s total exports, has never sanctioned or attempted to sanction a person or a company for bribery abroad. Germany, which accounts for 7.86 per cent of world exports, has sanctioned 316 individuals and 11 companies for foreign bribery.Given that Ireland benefits so hugely from international trade, it is about time that the law was strengthened sufficiently to deal with potential acts of corruption carried out anywhere in the world by companies based here.

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