OECD criticises anti-corruption efforts in Belgium, Finland and Slovenia

25 Feb 16

The OECD has slammed Belgium, Finland and Slovenia for their scant anti-corruption efforts, which the think-tank described as a cause of “serious concern”.

The OECD’s Working Group on Bribery is troubled by Finland’s “continued failure” and Belgium’s “limited efforts” to comply with the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, as well as Slovenia’s failure to address possible political interference in its Commission for the Prevention of Corruption.

The working group said it had expressed concerns over interference in the CPC, as well as the adequacy of the commission’s financial and human resources, in 2014, and asked Slovenia to ensure the exercise of the CPC’s powers, in particular around foreign bribery, were not subject to improper political influence.

In 2014, the OECD found there was a lack of enforcement of and priority given to the foreign bribery office, with only four foreign bribery allegations emerging since Slovenia became party to the anti-bribery convention in 1999.

Of those four allegations, one had been terminated, one had yet to be investigated, and the other two remained in the preliminary stages.

Since then “no reform has materialised” to address the working group’s concerns, it said. “On the contrary, the working group notes that the CPC continues to face important challenges in carrying out its duties”.

The working group said that “given the seriousness of these issues”, Slovenia should urgently take all appropriate measures to ensure the CPC is fully independent and appropriately resourced.

The working group also slammed Finland for its slow implementation of 19 recommendations made in 2010 to promote the prevention, detection and prosecution of foreign bribery offences. Five years on, two-thirds of the recommendations are either partially implemented or not implemented at all.

“The working group is disappointed by Finland’s lack of real progress” in the necessary legislative reforms, it said, highlighting in particular Finland’s failure to amend the definition of a foreign public official, ensure adequate limitation periods for prosecutions, and introduce genuine whistleblower protections.

Companies are still not liable for false accounting offences, although Finland has indicated a bill to correct this is scheduled to be submitted to parliament, and the country’s overall enforcement record is poor.

It noted that defendants in Finland have been acquitted of foreign bribery charges in all four of the cases that have been concluded in Finland, even though foreign public officials have been convicted for bribery schemes connected to Finnish companies in their home country.

Similarly, the working group said Belgium must be more proactive in foreign bribery cases involving both individuals and companies.

“To date, no court decision has been handed down concerning foreign bribery committed by Belgian persons. Since 2013 only two non-Belgian individuals have been convicted of foreign bribery,” it said.

The country has also been lacklustre in putting into place 30 recommendations made by the working group in 2013, with only five fully implemented currently.

While the working group welcomed efforts to train Belgian judicial authorities and public officials in the fight against foreign bribery, the announcement of several planned reforms in line with recommendations, and draft bills concerning the liability of legal persons and an increase in sanctions, it urged Belgium “to take the necessary measures to adopt this as soon as possible”.

“Other essential modifications are not envisaged by the Belgian authorities,” it added, including the reform of the limitation period to foreign bribery offences, private sector whistleblower protection, and the allocation of adequate resources to law enforcement and judicial authorities.

Belgium must provide a written report on its progress to the working group in October. Finland must demonstrate the political will to implement its outstanding recommendations “without further delay”, and must also submit a written progress report in October.

However the working group warned that if Finland does not demonstrate significant progress by then, the working group has the “right to consider additional measures”.

Slovenia’s progress is to be closely monitored by the working group and progress is expected by June 2016. 

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