23/10/14 - After a comprehensive review in October 2012, the OECD Working Group on Bribery asked France, through a series of concrete recommendations, to intensify its actions to fight the bribery of foreign public officials and undertake important reforms.
In October 2014, the Working Group welcomed several significant reforms, including: the establishment of a new National Financial Prosecutor; the end of individual instructions from the Minister of Justice to prosecutors; protection to all whistleblowers; the possibility for anti-corruption organisations to bring civil party claims; and, a substantial increase in criminal sanctions for the foreign bribery offence. Despite these efforts, the Working Group considers that France is insufficiently in compliance with the Anti-Bribery Convention not having implemented a significant number of the 33 recommendations made by the Working Group.
At the time of the adoption of these recommendations, French authorities committed, through a statement by their Minister of Justice, to adopt other measures, including decisive changes to their criminal policy. However, reforms which would have given public prosecutors the necessary statutory guarantees to exercise their functions without undue political influence which is required for the proper administration of justice, did not materialise. Furthermore, no reform in this respect is currently under consideration. Other anticipated amendments that are not envisaged include, reforms to ensure that the law on defence secrecy and the so-called « blocking statute » do not create an obstacle to investigations and prosecutions in foreign bribery cases. In addition, there are still no amendments to the statute of limitations and no criminalisation of trading in influence directed towards a foreign public official.
The Working Group has requested France to persist in prosecuting the offence of foreign bribery. While acknowledging that 24 new cases have been opened since October 2012, the Working Group remains concerned by the lack of proactivity of the authorities in cases which involve French companies in established facts or allegations of foreign bribery. To this day, no French company has yet been convicted for foreign bribery in France, whereas French companies have been convicted abroad for that offence, and the sanctions for convictions of natural persons have not been dissuasive.
While acknowledging the progress made, the Working Group expresses serious concerns for France’s limited efforts to comply with the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and strongly encourages France to pursue the reforms which were previously announced and remain necessary.
For further information, journalists are invited to contact Lynn Robertson, OECD Anti-Corruption Division Counsellor (Lynn.Robertson@oecd.org, + (33) 1 45 24 18 77) or the OECD Media Division (+ (33)1 45 24 81 18).
For more information on the implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in France, please visit : www.oecd.org/daf/anti-bribery/france-oecdanti-briberyconvention.htm.