How to Manage Foreign Bribery and Corruption Risks in Australia?

The issue of foreign corruption and bribery continues to bubble away on the Australian corporate scene. The regulators are yet to snare a big scalp. However, the intent to curb foreign fraud has just intensified with the Justice Minister, Mr Michael Keenan, announcing the formation of a new fraud and anti-corruption team to “prioritise foreign bribery investigations”.

This announcement follows news of the AFP investigating potential offshore corruption by two major Australian companies; Snowy Mountains Engineering Company’s (SMEC) alleged bribery of Sri Lankan Officials and Sundance Resources’ business dealings with Denis-Christel Sassou, the son of the leader of the Congo’s long-standing authoritarian regime.

Background to the Foreign Bribery and Corruption Allegations

In July 2006, a delegation of Sundance’s senior staff travelled to the Congo to secure the nationally significant, Mbalam-Nabeba Iron Ore project. As reported, the documents reveal that the visiting executives offered a secret company share package to seal the deal.

In relation to SMEC, it has been reported that political ‘donations’ had been promised to bureaucrats in relation to the $2.3 million sewage project contract awarded by the Sri Lankan government.

What Does this Mean?

In our experience, these cases are likely to be symptomatic of conduct which occurs regularly in developing jurisdictions by all manner of Australian related businesses and service providers.

After some apparent false starts, could these cases be the ones where the Australian corporate regulators bare their teeth?

The investigations and formation of a new singularly focussed investigative team signal that companies operating offshore cannot afford to be complacent with their risk management and corporate conduct. Surely, it is now time to take notice of potential exposure to these issues!


Being forewarned is forearmed. Investigating and assessing your risk can be done proactively and under the protection of legal professional privilege but without marshalling a whole army of lawyers. We provide cost-effective protection to corporate value and reputation for organisations facing significant operational risks. For more information contact us at

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