An anti-corruption watchdog has ranked Russia, Bulgaria, and Hungary among 19 leading global exporters that are doing little or even nothing to enforce rules meant to prohibit companies from paying bribes in foreign markets.
In a report released on October 13, Berlin-based Transparency International said that only four of 47 leading exporters -- the United States, Britain, Switzerland, and Israel, which account for 16.5 percent of global exports -- actively enforced legislation against foreign bribery in 2019.
That's down from seven countries accounting for 27 percent of global exports the previous year.
"Our research shows that many countries are barely investigating foreign bribery," said Gillian Dell, the lead author of the survey. "Unfortunately, it's all too common for businesses in wealthy countries to export corruption to poorer countries, undermining institutions and development."
A 1997 convention of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development prohibits bribes to win contracts and licenses, or to dodge taxes and local laws.
China, the world's largest exporter and not a signatory to the convention, was found to conduct "little or no enforcement," in a category making up 16.5 percent of global exports.
India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland, Peru, and Bulgaria were among the 18 other countries that fell into that category.
The report notes that Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council "specifically mandated in 2016 separate reporting of foreign bribery data by the courts, but in practice it is difficult to extract this data from public sources."
Bulgaria provides free online access to court decisions at all levels, although the information is often anonymized, which “substantially reduces the benefits of access,” it says.
Regarding legal frameworks, "deficiencies" remain in countries like Hungary and Russia in the legal definition of the offense of foreign bribery.
Concerns about the independence of judges or prosecutors have also been raised in Russia, while legal provisions on sanctions for companies are inadequate in countries including Hungary.
Germany, the world's third-largest exporter, only conducts "moderate enforcement" of the convention as do other major exporters like France, Italy, Spain, Australia, and Brazil.
The Netherlands, Canada, Austria, and the three Baltic states are in the category of those showing only "limited enforcement."
Transparency International head Delia Ferreira Rubio said that the Group of 20 (G20) major economies and other nations "have a responsibility to enforce the rules."
Foreign bribery has "huge costs and consequences" for countries across the globe, and those costs have become more severe during the coronavirus pandemic because "many cases of foreign bribery [are] occurring in health care," according to the report.
Transparency International's recommendations include ending secrecy in ownership of companies, "which acts as a barrier to detection and investigation of foreign bribery," and exploring increased liability of parent companies for the actions of their foreign subsidiaries to "help deter foreign bribery and related money laundering."