Buried in the small print and missed by many in the hullabaloo surrounding the launch of the new UK National Crime Agency (a rebranded roll up of existing crime law enforcement in the UK) are proposals to significantly overhaul the UK approach to dealing with bribery and corruption announced by the UK Home Secretary Theresa May.
Buried in the press release issued by the UK Home Office was the throwaway line:
‘New arrangements for reporting and investigating corruption’
Structure for investigating bribery
In the more detailed strategy paper there is more detail:
‘…Bribery and corruption are tools of serious and organised crime. We intend to introduce new systems for reporting corruption and the NCA will lead and coordinate work to investigate corruption in the UK. The Home Office will now coordinate domestic policy in this area.
…Recent research suggests that one in twenty people from the UK have paid a bribe in the last twelve months. This is a higher recorded rate than before.
…The current response to bribery and corruption needs to be improved at both the policy and operational level. Policy on bribery and corruption is currently split across Whitehall and, while good areas of work exist, there is no single Department that is responsible. The Home Office will now take a new lead role in coordinating all domestic bribery and corruption policy, working with the Cabinet Office and DFID to align this with work on corruption overseas. This allocation of responsibilities is consistent with Home Office work on tackling corruption in the police in conjunction with the College of Policing, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
…Blockages in routine intelligence sharing between agencies, fragmentation of the operational response and the lack of an effective reporting mechanism for suspicions of bribery and corruption have all hampered the fight against corruption.
…The NCA will lead on the assessment of bribery and corruption by organised crime and produce regular reporting on this theme.
…The NCA will also support investigations into corruption affecting law enforcement agencies and others, for example prisons, where staff are at higher risk of corruption given their proximity to criminals. They will do this through intelligence, threat assessments and, where required, operational support.
…The Economic Crime Command (ECC) in the NCA will oversee the law enforcement response to bribery and corruption more broadly. Where organised criminals are involved, the NCA may either take action itself or coordinate other agencies to ensure that a proportionate operational response is in place. The NCA will work closely with other law enforcement partners including:
• the Serious Fraud Office, which remains the lead agency for investigating large and complex cases of corporate bribery and corruption, and enforcing the Bribery Act in respect of overseas corruption by British businesses;
• the City of London Police, which investigates cases of domestic bribery and corruption and its Anti-Corruption Unit, funded by DFID, which investigates UK citizens and companies involved in bribery or corruption in DFID-funded developing countries; and
• the Proceeds of Corruption Unit in the Metropolitan Police Service, which investigates corrupt politically-exposed persons (individuals who have been entrusted with a prominent public position or are a close relative of such a person) who have laundered proceeds of corruption into the UK.’
A new reporting mechanism
‘…We believe that there are strong benefits in creating a new single reporting mechanism and will examine the best way to do this and agree a way forward….’
‘…BIS, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office will consider the case for incentivising whistle blowing, including the provision of financial incentives to support whistle blowing in cases of fraud, bribery and corruption. As part of this work we will examine what lessons can be drawn from the successful ‘Qui Tam’ provisions in the US where individuals who whistle-blow and work with prosecutors and law enforcement can receive a share of financial penalties levied against a company guilty of fraud against the government bribery or corruption in DFID-funded developing countries…’ [our emphasis]
These are bold and ambitious plans among the small print of a new approach to attacking crime in the UK, lost in the blizzard of press on a Whitehall government shakeup which also took place on Monday and the launch of the third attempt to create an FBI in the UK.
Son of Dodd Frank whistle blowing, a UK version of the false claims act and increased focus on bribery and corruption.
You know where you heard it first.
Everything is up for grabs. Some will continue to argue this is all jaw jaw and no war.
They may have to eat their words…
Barry Vitou & Richard Kovalevsky Q.C. blog here