The cabinet will consider a bill that will make bribery by foreign officials — both government and semi-government — punishable under Indian law, a move that can spell trouble for middlemen like those in the AgustaWestland deal.
India had signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption on December 9, 2005. The Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations Bill, 2011 is necessary for the ratification of the Convention. It provides a mechanism to deal with bribery among foreign public officials (FPO) and officials of public international organizations (OPIO). The Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organizations Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 25, 2011 by the Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievance and Pensions.
The Bill empowers the Central Government to enter into agreements with other countries (contracting states) for enforcing this law and for exchange of investigative information. The Bill also criminalizes acceptance or solicitation of bribes by FPO and OPIO for acts or omissions in their official capacity; Offering or promising to offer a bribe to any FPO and OPIO for obtaining or retaining business; Abetment or attempting either of the above acts. Any person who commits offences under the Bill shall be liable to imprisonment between six months and seven years, and a fine. Extradition treaties entered into by India with other countries that are signatories to the convention are deemed to be amended to include offences under the Bill.
The bill applies to officials in foreign embassies and government enterprises as well as those working for entities like Italian defence firm Finmeccanica — at the centre of the Agusta-Westland chopper scam — that are partly state owned.
The bill is intended to also signal the government’s commitment to cracking down on bribe givers and middlemen who use ambiguity of the law or diplomatic cover to evade law enforcement agencies.
Once passed by Parliament, foreign officials convicted of bribery will be liable to a prison sentence of six months to seven years besides a fine.
The bill refers to “foreign public officials” and officials of “public international organizations” and makes acceptance or solicitation of bribes as well as acts of omission and commission “in official capacity” as a punishable offense.
The law provides that extradition treaties signed by India with nations that are party to the UN convention will be deemed to be amended to include offenses under this act.
The measure brings Indian law in line with norms followed by OECD that seek to punish a senior executive offering a bribe to a government official to influence the award of a contract.
Under OECD rules, “public international organisation” includes any international organisation formed by states, governments, or other public international organisations, whatever the form of organisation and scope of competence, including, for example, a regional economic integration organisation such as the European Communities.
An official investigating an offense who’s evidence is available in another country can apply for relevant permission before a special judge hearing a case under the prevention of corruption act. A high court is empowered to hear appeals against a ruling or directive of the special judge