After allegations were made that Canadian companies bribed officials in Libya and Chad, Canada has introduced a bill providing greater penalties for foreign corruption and making it easier to charge Canadian individuals and companies.
The announcement of proposed changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act was made yesterday by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. After talking about the importance of foreign trade to the country, Baird said, "But our government expects Canadian business to play by the rules. Canadian companies can compete with the best and win fairly."
The proposed amendments are contained in Bill S-14 that was introduced yesterday in the Senate. Currently, at least part of the crime must take place in Canada before it can be prosecuted. Now, as with other extra-territorial legislation, Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada can be charged with bribery or corruption even if all the acts occur outside of the country.
A new section has been added, making it an offence to falsify books and business records to conceal bribes that are paid out. And the definition of "business" has been expanded to cover non-profit companies. The current Act states a business must be "for profit" to fall within the ambit of the legislation.
Bill S-14 increases the maximum penalty for bribery of foreign officials from five years to 14 in jail. As the Litigator points out, individuals who are convicted will no longer be able to be granted discharges (findings of guilt although no formal conviction is registered). And anyone who is convicted of an offence where the maximum punishment is 14 years does not qualify for a conditional sentence, often referred to as house arrest.
The changes to the legislation were prompted two recent high profile cases. Last month, as reported by CBC, Griffiths Energy International Inc., a Calgary based company, pleaded guilty to one count of bribing a foreign official. After getting legal advice that they could not do business with Chad's ambassador to Canada, the company entered into an agreement with the ambassador's wife.
The ambassador's wife received $2 million in cash and millions of shares in Griffiths. The company also paid $40 million to the government of Chad. In exchange for the payments, Griffiths received exclusive resource rights in two areas of the African country. The bribe was discovered when new management took over and the books were examined with a view of taking the company public.
A joint submission was made in court that Griffiths pay a fine of $10.35 million.
As noted by the Globe and Mail, the RCMP are investigating the engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin. It is alleged employees of the companies paid bribes to the former Libyan government of Moammar Gadhafi in order to get business from that country. It is alleged in addition to payments of $160 million, the Montreal based company bought luxurious yachts for Saadi Gadhafi, son of the late dictator.
As the Conservatives have a majority in the Senate, the bill will have no difficulty passing in the Red Chamber. And as the NDP have already signified the current law is not strict enough, the bill should be able to make it through the House of Commons.