Corruption can be broadly defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption exists in and concerns every country in the world, including Ireland. Corrupt activity can be engaged in by private individuals, public officials and businesses. Corruption can take many forms including conflicts of interest, undue influence and the giving and taking of bribes.

A person who has either a suspicion or documentary proof that corrupt practices are taking place in international business transactions should in the first instance report the matter to:

Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2.
Telephone: +353-1-6663776
Bribery and Corruption Confidential Line 1800 40 60 80

On receipt of such a complaint, the Bureau will conduct an assessment to determine whether a crime has taken place and will then either proceed with the investigation itself or assign responsibility to the relevant Garda Region.

Overall, corruption reduces efficiency and increases inequality. Estimates show that the cost of corruption equals more than 5% of global GDP (US$ 2.6 trillion, World Economic Forum) with over US$ 1 trillion paid in bribes each year (World Bank).  Engaging in corrupt practices also creates a very unfavourable business environment by encouraging unfair advantage and anti-competitive practices.  As well as allowing organised crime to flourish, corruption is one of the primary obstacles to the economic development of a country; it undermines the rule of law, weakens trust in public institutions and challenges democratic principles.

Businesses face high ethical and business risks and potential costs when they fail to effectively combat corruption in all its forms. All companies, large and small, are vulnerable to corruption, and the potential for damage is considerable. Business can face:

  • Legal risks: not only are most forms of corruption illegal where they occur but it is also increasingly becoming illegal in a company’s home country to engage in corrupt practices in another country;
  • Reputational risks: companies whose policies and practices fail to meet high ethical standards, or that take a relaxed attitude toward compliance with laws, are exposed to serious reputational risks. Often it is enough to be accused of malpractice for a company’s reputation to be damaged even if a court subsequently determines the contrary;
  • Financial costs: there is clear evidence that many countries lose close to $1 trillion due to fraud, corruption and shady business transactions and in certain cases, corruption can cost a country up to 17% of its GDP, according to the UN Development Programme in 2014. This undermines business performance and diverts public resources from legitimate sustainable development;
  • Erosion of internal trust and confidence as unethical behaviour damages staff loyalty to the company as well as the overall ethical culture of the company.

Irish businesses, both at home and abroad, should implement anti-corruption policies and practices, including anti-corruption guidelines, training, internal audit procedures and reporting requirements. The challenge for business is to maintain, review and develop these measures to respond to changing circumstances.
Some specific measures a business could implement may include;

  • carry out a bribery and corruption risk assessment;
  • establishing an anti-corruption policy;
  • ensuring all employees are familiar with the relevant bribery and corruption laws, their roles in the business, their responsibilities and the appropriate response to any suspicion of corrupt activity;
  • ensuring that agents and partners, who are representing or purporting to represent your business, have adequate and valid credentials for the activities being undertaken;
  • establishing monitoring and reporting requirements for agents and partners representing your business;
  • establishing a clear and accessible system for the reporting of any suspicious behaviour.

The purpose of the risk assessment is to inform the company on their level of exposure to risk related to bribery and corruption. This will enable them to tailor their bribery and corruption prevention policies and activities to their risk profile. Businesses should also be cognisant of Section 18 of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018, which makes the company liable for any offence under the act committed by their employee or agent unless they can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent it.”

The Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018 has a global reach. Section 18 of the Act introduces the offence of Corporate Liability. Corporates can be found liable for the corrupt conduct of their officers, employees, agents and subsidiaries unless it can be shown that the corporate took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence.

Corporates involved in regions or industries that have a higher exposure to bribery and corruption should implement anti-corruption measures, such as:

  • Carry out a bribery and corruption risk assessment for your business.
  • Staff anti-corruption training
  • Carry out due diligence on entities that you are engaging in business with
  • Develop anti-corruption strategies and policies.

Irish businesses that encounter instances of bribery and corruption abroad should report them as soon as practicable to An Garda Síochána.