New bill will update legislation on bribes

Making a payment to a public official will be “presumed” to constitute corruption under upcoming legislation.

The presumption of corruption will also apply in cases where a public official has failed to declare his interests and where a public official has accepted a gift in breach of ethical or disciplinary codes.

Under the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill, the offences will attract unlimited fines and penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

Judges are also due to get the power to order a public official convicted of an offence to forfeit their office and exclude them from public office for a period.

The provisions emerge as a UN body praised Ireland for the sweep of its anti-bribery legislation and the “comprehensive” nature of both its witness protection programme and its whistle-blower legislation.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also commended Ireland’s powers regarding the confiscating of proceeds from crime and corruption.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the review benchmarked Ireland’s laws with the UN Convention against Corruption, of which Ireland is a signatory.

The review highlights a number of “successes” in Ireland’s implementation of the convention. It said:

  • Ireland’s anti-bribery legislation “goes beyond” the requirements of the convention, in that it applies equally to national and foreign officials and to the private sector.
  • The broad definition of the recipient of a bribe includes people acting for him or her.
  • The comprehensive nature of the witness protection programme.
  • The comprehensive whistleblower protection legislation, which it said was “extraordinarily broad”, covering all employees in both the public and private sectors.

The review called on Ireland to “swiftly adopt” its forthcoming corruption legislation, saying it needed to explicitly criminalise the “promise” of a bribe, to comprehensively criminalise trading in influence, to establish a system of corporate criminal responsibility.

Ms Fitzgerald said “further work” was under way which would enhance Ireland’s response and take full account of the recommendations in the review.

She said the new bill will update laws on giving and receiving bribes, will address the bribery of foreign public officials, will make corporate bodies liable for the corrupt actions of their directors, employees, and agents, and will also outlaw trading in influence.

It will take account of the Mahon Tribunal recommendations to criminalise the making of payments knowingly or recklessly to a third party who intends to use them as bribes.

It will also enhance the ability of the DPP to bring prosecutions by providing presumptions of corrupt gifts or payments.

These include where an interested party makes a payment to a public official, where a public official has failed to declare interests as required by ethics legislation, and where an official accepts a gift in breach of ethical or disciplinary codes


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