Active enforcement against foreign bribery has dropped sharply since 2018, and three places - China, Hong Kong and India - did not open a single foreign bribery investigation from 2016 to 2019, a new report by watchdog Transparency International found. The report, released Tuesday, said the share of global exports from countries that actively enforce legislation against foreign bribery and money laundering is down by more than a third.
Only four of 47 leading exporters - the United States, Britain, Switzerland and Israel, which account for 16.5% of global exports - actively enforced legislation against foreign bribery in 2019, it said. That is down from seven countries accounting for 27% of global exports in 2018.
China, the world's largest exporter, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, India and Mexico had the worst track records, the group said. "Too many governments choose to turn a blind eye when their companies use bribery to win business in foreign markets," said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of the group.
But no country was immune. Germany, the world's third-largest exporter, pursued fewer investigations in 2019, and closed fewer cases against graft overseas, while Italy and Norway also showed declines.
Transparency International urged Group of 20 major economies to step up enforcement, noting money lost to foreign bribery was not available to be spent on critical needs such as healthcare. Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 countries will meet by video conference this week during the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
To address the problem, Transparency International said all countries that signed the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and other major economies, should end secrecy in ownership of companies, make case outcomes public, and explore increased liability of parent companies for the actions of their subsidiaries.