The Bribery Act 2010, which comes into effect on 1 July, aims to encourage businesses to expose corruption within their organisations by making it a criminal offence to give or receive a bribe.
The Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July, replacing the current century-old bribery and corruption laws.
Under the new act, any company that carries on a business in the UK can incur liability for the corrupt actions of rogue employees or associated third parties - even if the company's management knew nothing about the bribery. The act covers overseas operations of firms doing business in the UK.
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC has also approved an initiative for businesses to "self-report" bribery offences, to mark the Crown's dedication to creating transparency in corporate culture.
"The Bribery Act introduces a stricter, modern anti-bribery regime in the UK," he explained.
From today the police have to report all Bribery Act cases to the Crown Office's Serious and Organised Crime Division (SOCD). Mulholland added that cases will then be prioritised and tackled effectively, and with the public interest firmly in mind.
"We hope that this will encourage businesses to proactively report wrongdoing," Mulholland explained. "Businesses will be required to demonstrate that they are taking action to remedy serious misconduct in their organisation."
He insisted that this is "not a soft option" for businesses and described the initiative as one of many ways he and his colleagues will fight the "serious and insidious" crimes of corporate bribery and corruption.
We hope that this scheme will encourage businesses to proactively report wrongdoing. Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC
Businesses are now able to report any discoveries that they make of conduct within their organisation amounting to a Bribery Act offence, or offences, that happened before 1 July. If they do so, it is possible they can avoid prosecution from the Crown, which may instead consider the case for civil settlement.
The initiative will run for 12 months, and businesses will have until 30 June 2012 to submit their reports to the SOCD.
Businesses should not assume that there will be an extension to the service beyond this initial 12 month term, but such a possibility will be considered.