The UK’s Bribery Act is slated to take effect in April…mere weeks away (10 by my reckoning).  Draft guidelines have been prepared and are being circulated (after all, inquiring minds are eager to know about ‘adequate procedures’).

The Act will put the UK — one of the world’s least corrupt countries — at the forefront of global anti-bribery efforts. None of this backbone-lacking ‘facilitating payments’ exception for the UK – strict liability all the way.

Ah – but what’s this? The Evening Standard ran an editorial  on January 10 about how being tough on bribes will be bad for UK businesses competing overseas. Calling bribery ‘abhorrent’, the editorial nonetheless contends,

“but if most of our competitors allow these payments, including states with tough anti-bribery laws such as the US, it seems unfair that Britain alone [Anticorruption Blog comment: tell that to the other 33 OECD member countries + 4 non-member countries who have signed on to the OECD Convention for Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions] should prohibit them. Corruption is a scourge but it is not one that the UK can tackle alone. This Act will damage business: it should be quietly dropped.”

Really – the paper said that.

As if that weren’t bad enough, now the Prime Minister has stepped in to order a review of the Act:

Just weeks before the Bribery Act is due to come into force, David Cameron’s office stepped in after warnings by business chiefs that bosses could end up in court after unwittingly committing an offence.

Unwittingly? Perhaps this would fall into what Richard Cassin of the FCPA Blog calls the “I didn’t know ” defense.

In any case, it should be too late for businesses to succeed with these arguments – accepting them after passage of the Act would send a strong signal that the UK does not in fact believe corruption is a scourge.

Stay tuned…