Bribery of foreign public officials

Australian businesses operating in international markets need to be aware of their obligations under Australian and foreign law with respect to dealing with foreign public officials.

Bribery of foreign public officials is a serious crime under Australian law, punishable by fines and imprisonment. Australian individuals and companies can be prosecuted in Australia for bribing foreign officials when overseas. In addition, most foreign countries have laws that prohibit offering or giving a benefit to government officials to improperly influence their actions. 

Australian businesses operating offshore should:

  • implement an anti-foreign bribery and corruption compliance program. For guidance, see Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABC): A guide for Australians doing business offshore Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABC): A guide for Australians doing business offshore (PDF, 794KB)
  • understand that making facilitation payments (i.e. unofficial payments to secure or speed up a routine government action) are illegal in most foreign countries
  • conduct appropriate due diligence before engaging and using third parties, such as agents and business partners, in foreign countries
  • be aware that the Australian Government is currently considering strengthening its anti-foreign bribery laws. This includes the potential introduction of a new corporate offence of failing to prevent foreign bribery. 

For more information, including in relation to facilitation payments, go to the Attorney General's Department webpage on foreign bribery.

Working with Austrade

The Australian Government has a zero tolerance approach to bribery and corruption.

It is Austrade policy that:

  • Austrade will not assist any individual or business to pay bribes to foreign public officials
  • Austrade will not assist any individual or business to make or arrange facilitation payments
  • it is not Austrade’s role to guarantee the integrity of a local agent or provide a background check – businesses must conduct their own due diligence
  • any Austrade official who suspects an individual or a company of being involved in foreign bribery or corruption must report the concern to authorities

Since 2010, Austrade has undertaken a series of initiatives to ensure that its practices comply with the anti-bribery provisions contained in section 70 of the Australian Criminal Code. This includes mandatory training for all Austrade staff on complying with anti-bribery laws.

Austrade has also updated its policies and client documentation, including its Service Policy Handbook, making it clear in its service proposals, for example, that it cannot assist businesses to pay bribes or make facilitation payments.

Anti-bribery Materials

The materials below are provided by Austrade for information and general guidance only. Businesses operating overseas should make their own enquiries and seek independent legal advice based on their individual circumstances and the countries in which they operate.