The Act, which becomes law on 1 July, strengthens existing anti-corruption and bribery laws and will ensure UK companies are held responsible for the actions of any of their overseas operations.
For breaking these laws the consequences are severe, with unlimited fines and up to ten years imprisonment. In the Middle East it is common for countries to request by law that a foreign company has a local ‘agent’ or ‘sponsor’ who will be paid by the overseas company.
Rebecca Kelly, partner at the Dubai office of law firm Clyde & Co, said that while she does not want to scaremonger, there is a real risk that companies will fall foul of the new laws if they do not ensure they conduct thorough due diligence on these appointed agents.
“We are encouraging people to come out here, not to appoint people they have not met and to ask individuals for information about their business and relationships,” she said.
“As the only defence for a corporation is that they had ‘adequate procedures’, they should ensure they have firm policies and processes and employees understand the importance of that policy.”
Friends Provident International, which pays a flat fee to an Emirati agent, said it welcomed the strengthening of the laws.
In a statement it said: “The CEO personally sponsors the anti-bribery strategy which has the full support of the leadership team, in order to protect the interests of customers, employees and business partners.”