In April 2016 the government announced a $15 million strategy to tackle complex fraud, foreign bribery and corruption cases.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan launched the first team in Perth on 5 September to investigate foreign bribery, and confirmed that similar teams will be set up in Melbourne and Sydney.
“The introduction of specialist teams is the most significant indication to date that Australian companies will face increased scrutiny when it comes to their operations overseas,” said Jason Gray, Allen & Overy counsel and Australian anti-bribery practice leader.
“It’s likely the first team in Perth will focus on cases involving the mining and resources sector, particularly mid-tier companies with operations in developing areas of Asia and Africa.
“These are the most ‘at-risk’ businesses, that may not have previously invested as heavily in risk-based anti-bribery and corruption compliance programs designed to prevent and detect potential violations of law.”
Other developments in recent months have also reflected the increased focus on foreign bribery law enforcement, including an inquiry intended to strengthen Australia’s foreign bribery laws, announced by the Senate last year.
In March 2016 the government also introduced new false accounting offences and the Attorney-General’s Department released a public consultation paper on the introduction of deferred prosecution agreements for serious corporate crimes.
“The OECD and Transparency International have long criticised Australia’s lack of enforcement and, while the government has talked a tough game on foreign bribery, the rhetoric is now being matched with concrete investment and the first tangible sign of increased investigative tools and resources,” Mr Gray said.
“For Australian companies operating in industries and jurisdictions with a high risk for bribery and corruption, it is an opportune time to get ahead of the regulatory curve.”