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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
China and India 'top bribe list'
Anti-corruption sign in Zambia
Do foreign firms undermine anti-corruption efforts?
Firms from China and India are most willing to pay bribes abroad to do business, a survey suggests.

Anti-corruption group Transparency International (TI) put the two countries at the top of its Bribe Payers' Index of 30 exporting nations.

French and Italian firms were named as the worst culprits for paying bribes in low-income countries.

TI said its survey showed that efforts to introduce anti-corruption laws had yet to slow the problem.

"It is hypocritical that OECD-based companies continue to bribe across the globe, while their governments pay lip-service to enforcing the law," said TI chief executive David Nussbaum.

"The enforcement record on international anti-bribery laws makes for short and disheartening reading."

Big exporters

The annual survey, which complements TI's Corruption Perceptions Index measuring the apparent readiness of countries' officials to accept bribes, used responses from more than 11,000 businesspeople in 125 countries.

Countries whose firms are least prepared to pay bribes:
Countries whose firms are most prepared to pay bribes:
Source: Transparency International

It ranks respondents' experience of which countries' firms are most prepared to pay bribes.

TI said it focused on firms from the 30 biggest exporting states, which between them accounted for more than 80% of all world exports.

The placing of China and India as the home of firms most prepared to pay bribes may partly be the result of the two countries' rapid industrialisation and their push for resources, analysts said.

Russia, too, was near the bottom of the table.

On the other hand, Switzerland was ranked as the home of the firms least likely to use off-the-books payments to officials to get business done, with Sweden and Australia close behind.

The UK was sixth in the list of 30, with the US joint ninth with Belgium.

France, however, was at number 15 and Italy at number 20 - with respondents in Africa singling them out as much more prone to bribes than other Western states.

This, TI said, suggested a double standard - with a number of Western companies cleaning up their act close to home while continuing to pay bribes outside the industrialised world.

"Although Italy and France are singled out for mention, the UK cannot escape criticism," said Segun Osuntokun, partner at international law firm DLA Piper,

"There have been no prosecutions in the UK in recent times for corruption overseas - even though we have ratified the OECD Convention on Bribery and it was given effect to in 2001.

There were too many conflicting and ancient laws covering corruption, Mr Osuntokun said, described by the Law Commission as "obscure, complex, inconsistent and insufficiently comprehensive".

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