On October 9, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) issued revised policy statements in respect of facilitation payments, business expenditure (gifts and corporate hospitality) and self-reporting. The changes reflect the SFO’s recent shift back towards its traditional role of investigating and prosecuting serious crime, rather than acting in a more regulatory capacity.
In summary, the revised statements make the following key points:
- facilitation payments are bribes and are illegal under the Bribery Act 2010, irrespective of their size or frequency;
- although genuine hospitality or promotional business expenditure is an important and well-established part of doing business, it is important to be aware that bribes can be disguised as legitimate expenditure; and
- the Guidance on Corporate Prosecutions sets out the extent to which self reporting is relevant to the decision to prosecute. Self reporting will not automatically avert prosecution and, even if the SFO does not prosecute reported violations, it can still prosecute unreported violations and provide information to other bodies such as foreign police forces.