Doing Business Overseas: Is It Okay to Bribe?

Doing Business Overseas: Is It Okay to Bribe?

Let’s say that you have decided to do business overseas, like you are shipping goods to or receiving goods from the Philippines. Is it okay to pay money to Philippine government officials to get expedited service? The obvious answer to this is no. If you did this, you could be liable to prosecution under Canadian law.

How can I be prosecuted under Canadian law for something I did in the Philippines?
About 10 years ago, Canada passed the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. This act makes bribing a foreign official a crime.

What is a bribe?
Many people think that as long as no actual money has been paid out, no offense has been committed. This is a wrong assumption, because the law indicates that any “loan, reward, advantage, or benefit” given to a foreign public official is a bribe; thus, “gifts” are also considered bribes. So, giving a gift can, in the right circumstances, result in prosecution.

What if an agent, associate, or employee I am working with made the bribe?
The law indicates also that a bribe may be given “directly or indirectly.” Therefore, an agent, associate, or employee’s bribing on your behalf or for your business’s benefit can result in your being prosecuted in Canada.

Who are foreign public officials?
“Foreign public officials” are politicians, government workers, and officials or agents of a public international organization such as the United Nations. Officials at all levels and subdivisions of governments, from national to local, are also considered foreign public officials.

What if I give money to a friend or family member a foreign public official instead?
If the gift is for the benefit of a foreign public official’s family member, friend, or even political party, this may be illegal. In fact, if the money or gift is given to any person for the benefit of the official, it is illegal.

A relative of mine is a politician in the Philippines; does this mean I cannot send money to this person?
The prohibition on sending money or gifts to a foreign public official refers to money or gift sent for the purpose of “obtaining or retaining an advantage in the course of business.” Thus, if you are sending money to the Philippines for personal reasons and not for the purpose of doing business or seeking to influence business, you are most likely not violating a law.

Are there any payments to a foreign public official that are considered legal?
Under Canadian law, payments that are permitted or required under Philippine law are allowable. As well, the payment of reasonable expenses may, in certain circumstances, be legal. Finally, some “facilitation payments” are also legal under Canadian law. Therefore, any payments made in the Philippines must comply with Philippine law.

This article is prepared for general information purposes only and is intended to provide comments for readers and friends of Filipino Journal. The contents should not be viewed as legal advice or opinion. If you have specific questions concerning immigration law, you should discuss them with a legal advisor of your choice.
Reis Pagtakhan is a lawyer with the law firm of Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson LLP. He practices in the areas of immigration law and corporate and commercial law. His direct line is 957-4640. If you like to know more about Pagtakhan or Aikins, you may visit the firm’s Web site: