There are serious risks for Canadian businesses that pay bribes abroad, especially with the recent changes to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials act.

Amendments were made to the law, particularly the exception built in allowing “grease payments”.

Big businesses that are caught will have significant ramifications, such as long-term bans from working on government contracts. An individual could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Removing the facilitation ban has made it easier to define what constitutes a bribe in Canadian law. Before the change, facilitation payments were known as smaller bribes that were paid for routine government actions (getting permits and processing them). The issue was knowing what was acceptable: was $100 small enough? What about a company car? Now any bribe paid to a foreign official is illegal.

The books and record offence is tricky for business accountants who find out about a bribery payment that was made by a company official overseas and end up going along with it and hide it under a different expense. If you get caught the person responsible for paying the bribe will be guilty – and the person who hid the expense will also be liable for up to 14 years in jail.

What’s also included in the Act is the allowance for deferred prosecution; legal action can be suspended for a period of time, as long as the company can produce a senior figure responsible for the breaches. Canada’s now more inline with first-world international anti-corruption standards, similar to the USA and UK’s laws.

We’re able to easily investigate suspected bribery payments, even if they’re buried in the books. People tend to take bribes in an even amount, which stands out in the invoice books. Another clue is knowing what expenses tend to cost in the country where the bribery is suspected. For instance, if you see a bunch of $100 entries for window washing in South Africa that’s a red flag. The average wage there is about $20 a day.