Authorities in both the US and the UK have recently successfully prosecuted offenders of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and Bribery Act respectively.

In the United States, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida sentenced the former president of Terra Telecommunications Corp to 15 years in prison for money laundering and bribery offences relating to payments of approximately $890,000 in bribes to directors of Haiti Teleco. The Court further required the defendants to forfeit $3.09 million. The payments were concealed “commissions” or “consulting fees” to shell companies, in violation of the FCPA’s books and records provisions. The sentence handed down is significantly higher than previous convictions (around 7 years) however in theory under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual, he could have been sentenced to 24 years or more.

Meanwhile, Munir Yakub Patel, an administrative Magistrates’ Court clerk, pleaded guilty to the Section 2 offence under the UK Bribery Act 2010 for promising a defendant to influence motor offence proceedings in return for a bribe of £500. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, although it is likely that the sentence imposed will be significantly lower than the maximum. Patel was filmed by the Sun newspaper taking the bribe and had also been charged with misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. Patel was due to be sentenced on 11 November 2011. However, the matter was adjourned to Friday, 18 November 2011.

This case illustrates that while the FCPA relates to bribes paid to overseas officials, the Bribery Act, on the other hand, applies both domestically and internationally and catches not only the payment but also the receipt of bribes.

It is also somewhat ironic that, despite all the hype and scaremongering surrounding the UK’s introduction of tough and wide-reaching anti-bribery legislation, the first prosecution concerned a small bribe to a minor official in relation to a petty motoring offence.  However, the UK’s SFO is known to have its own prosecutions in the pipeline and these will inevitably relate to much bigger and more complex cases.

Please click here to read our previous blogs on the Bribery Act.