Does the Proceeds of Crime Act apply to overseas corruption by a foreign company?

Hypothetical:

A US-based company is found to have bribed a foreign government official in southeast Asia in connection with a tender for a major construction project. The US company has no subsidiaries or operations in the UK; no part of the bribery scheme took place within the UK; and no British citizens have been implicated in the bribery. As a result of the bribes having been made, the US company was awarded the tender and generated significant revenues as a result. The revenues were paid into a bank account held by the company in the UK.  The revenues were subsequently transferred from the UK bank account into a bank account held by the company in the US.

Key Considerations:

  • There is unlikely to be any Bribery Act liability.
  • The Proceeds of Crime Act may apply even where the predicate criminal conduct took place outside of the UK.
  • The mere fact that revenues transferred into and out of a UK account bank would be sufficient to bring a US company within the jurisdiction of the Proceeds of Crime Act, creating the risk of the US company committing substantive money-laundering offenses.
  • There is a need to ensure that all requests for payments and transfers of funds are supported by legitimate documentation and sufficient explanation.
  • Be mindful of training business and finance personnel to raise awareness of anti-money laundering and anti-corruption risks.
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