In a first under Israeli law, an IT solutions provider was fined approximately $1.2 million by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on December 15 for bribing a government official from the African county of Lesotho. The Israel-based company produces high-tech identification cards and products for population registration and border control. In 2012, the company entered into a $30 million agreement with the government of Lesotho to sell its products to the African country. The company was charged with paying a mediator $500,000 to advance that deal, with a significant amount of that sum intended as a bribe for the director general of Lesotho’s interior ministry. As part of the plea agreement, the company must also cooperate with an ongoing parallel investigation in Lesotho and implement an anti-corruption compliance program.
The prosecution and plea agreement represent the first time a company has been indicted or convicted of bribing a foreign official under Israeli law. In July 2008, Israel added Article 291A to its penal code, outlawing bribery of foreign public officials. The law was enacted in conjunction with Israel entering the UN Convention against Corruption in February 2009 and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in March 2009. Prior to the case against the company, Israel had come under international criticism for lack of enforcement of Article 291A. The case adds Israel to the list of countries prosecuting companies for bribery of foreign officials and places Israeli companies on notice of future prosecutions.