United Kingdom

UK has made strong progress fighting foreign bribery, but uncertainty over Serious Fraud Office role remains


23/03/2017 - Foreign bribery enforcement in the UK has increased significantly since 2012 notably thanks to the pragmatic and effective approach taken by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to investigate and resolve foreign bribery cases. The government should maintain the role of the SFO in foreign bribery cases and ensure it continues to have the resources needed to function effectively, according to a new OECD report. The OECD Working Group on Bribery has just completed its Phase 4 evaluation on the UK’s implementation of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and related instruments. While the report praises the UK’s enforcement efforts and high-level political commitment to fighting foreign bribery, it also calls on the UK to further improve interagency cooperation, and to ensure the independence of investigations and prosecutions.


The Working Group has made further recommendations to improve the UK's fight against foreign bribery, including with respect to:


  • Scotland improving its enforcement capacity with respect to foreign bribery, particularly in light of the high concentration in Scotland of companies operating in corruption-sensitive sectors;
  • The UK enhancing its anti-money laundering reporting framework to improve detection of foreign bribery;
  • The UK strengthening engagement with the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories regarding the detection and enforcement of  foreign bribery; and
  • HMRC conducting a comprehensive review of its methods and capacity to detect and report foreign bribery.


The Working Group welcomed the UK’s strong anti-corruption drive, especially in 2016 with the organisation of the London Anti-Corruption Summit and the announcement of significant legislative reforms which could further enhance foreign bribery enforcement, and looks forward to seeing these efforts pursued in the coming years. The report also highlights positive achievements by the UK, including efforts to enhance its detection capacity of foreign bribery, notably through intelligence analysis by the SFO, improved whistleblowing channels, and mobilisation of its overseas missions.


The UK Phase 4 Report was adopted by the 44 members of the OECD Working Group on Bribery on 15 March 2017. The report, available here, lists the recommendations the Working Group made to the UK on pages 90-97, and includes an overview of recent enforcement activity and specific legal, policy, and institutional features of the UK’s framework for fighting foreign bribery. In accordance with the standard procedure, the UK will submit a written follow-up report to the Working Group within two years on steps taken to implement its recommendations. This follow-up report will also be made publicly available.


The report is part of the OECD Working Group on Bribery’s fourth phase of monitoring, launched in 2016. Phase 4 looks at the evaluated country’s particular challenges and positive achievements. It also explores issues such as detection, enforcement, corporate liability, and international cooperation, as well as covering unresolved issues from prior reports. 


For further information, journalists are invited to contact Daisy Pelham, OECD Anti-Corruption Division (+33 (0)1 45 24 90 81). For more information on OECD’s work to fight corruption, please visit


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