When Justine Greening, International Development Secretary, launched the International Corruption Unit (‘ICU’), she announced that “the best of British law enforcement will step up our aid work combatting corruption head on across the developing world.”

Jo Rickards looks at the form this will take.

Joining forces

Existing investigation and intelligence units from the Metropolitan Police Service, City of London Police and National Crime Agency (‘NCA’) will be brought together for the first time - housed in a specialist unit under one roof at the NCA.  A significant five year funding stream - £21 million – will be provided to the ICU up to 2020.

Long arm of the law

The UK seeks to set a gold standard in tackling corruption both at home and abroad. The 2014 Anti-Corruption Action Plan sets raising international standards and leading the global fight against corruption as key priorities.  DFID figures show that since 2006, DFID-police units in the UK have investigated more than 150 cases of overseas bribery and recovered £200 million of stolen assets as well as successfully prosecuting 27 individuals and one company. 

What next?

The Government underlines how corruption harms societies, undermines economic development and threatens democracy.  With this in mind the new unit is tasked with delivering “a high level and more strategic approach” to identifying and tackling corruption in the 28 DFID priority countries. In 2013 DFID prepared anti-corruption strategies by country see more here.

What does this mean?

With intelligence being conducted within the ICU, an upsurge in overseas investigations is inevitable. We expect a significant increase in money laundering and bribery cases to be brought.  As the unit will have both the manpower and resources to investigate, it will mean that the authorities are likely to uncover corruption even when there is no tip off from a whistle-blower or self-report by a company that discovers it.

The consequence is greater risk of discovery for individuals involved in corruption and a higher likelihood of prosecution . Equally, corporates will be more vulnerable to criminal proceedings, as the opportunity to enter into a DPA is unlikely to be afforded to companies that have not referred themselves to the authorities.

This is a strong signal that the UK means business in terms of tackling overseas corruption.