Hot on the heels of the publication of the Government’s report on white collar crime last month (Report), the Minister for Justice and Equality published the much anticipated Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017 (Bill).

The Bill aims to completely modernise Irish anti-corruption law, repealing and replacing the seven existing Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 2010 into one single statute and providing for a number of new offences and for stronger penalties on conviction.

Corporate criminal liability

Of particular note is section 18 of the Bill, which provides for the criminal liability of corporate bodies where a director, manager, secretary or other officer, employee or subsidiary commits an offence with the intention of obtaining or retaining business or an advantage in the conduct of business for the body corporate. Subsections 18(3) and 18(4) of the legislation also seek to look behind the body corporate itself to the person who committed the offence. If it is found that a corruption offence was committed by a company with the consent or connivance of an individual (eg a shareholder or director) or the offence was committed due to the wilful neglect of an individual, then the individual too may be found guilty of an offence under the Bill in their own personal capacity.

Anti-corruption policy

In order to avoid conviction and a possible fine the defences open to a body corporate under subsection 18(2) are that the body corporate took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence. So it will be very important for companies to put in place a robust anti-corruption policy which is clearly communicated to all staff.

Penalties

The penalties reflect the seriousness of such conduct and are substantial. A body corporate found guilty under section 18(1) shall be liable to a fine of at least €5,000. A person found guilty under subsection 18(3) or 18(4) could face a term of imprisonment of up to ten years.

Status of Bill

The Bill was introduced on 2 November and was referred to select committee on 15 November. The Report states that the Bill will be enacted by the end of 2018. Companies should review Section 18 and prepare an anti-corruption policy well in advance of this.