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Anti-corruption regulations

Carlos Fradique MéndezAdriana Ospina Jiménez

In light of the renewed focus by the US authorities on enforcement of the provisions of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as the implementation of the UK Bribery Act, it is worthwhile looking at the applicable regime of anti-bribery regulations in Colombia and the government's efforts to strengthen the country's anti-bribery laws.

Pursuant to Article 143 of the Colombian Criminal Code, any person that makes a corrupt payment or gives any other advantage, cash or otherwise, to a public official in order to obtain or retain business may be subject to the following penalties: (i) a monetary fine of between 50- and 100-times the Colombian minimum wage, which can be up to COL$53 million ($30,000); (ii) three- to six-years' imprisonment; (iii) a ban from executing contracts with the government, for a period equal to the years of imprisonment; and (iv) a ban from running for public office, also for a period equal to the years of imprisonment.

In addition, pursuant to Article 147 of the Code, any person that makes a corrupt payment to a public official on a matter that is pending official review by such public official, will be subject to the same fine as well as four- to six-years' imprisonment. This is particularly relevant due to Colombia's infrastructure and natural resources boom, as most large-scale projects undergo a formal governmental bid review process with the aim of allocating projects to the most competent and competitively priced bidders.

The Colombian government has expressed its commitment to fight corruption through stricter enforcement and imminent passage of a new anti-corruption statute, which would contain new regulations that would significantly impact government procurement contracts and other matters vulnerable to bribery-related activities, and which will most likely modify the penalties outlined above. Furthermore, the new statute would likely extend the statute of limitations, and provide regulations for the implementation of rigorous procedures of internal controls with the aim of preventing bribery-related activity.

With the passage of this new anti-bribery statute, Colombia will hopefully soon reap the rewards of these efforts through a better placement on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.

Robert Kuster and Adriana Ospina Jiménez

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