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From Delhi :The Long Arm Of The UK's Bribery Act

Posted on November 7, 2011 at 1:00 AM

The things one learns from hanging around the opulent Aman Resorts hotel (basic room $550 a night + taxes to a three bedroom Lodhi pool suite at $2,200 + taxes) in New Delhi, packed to the brim with a wedding party connected to some of its owners at DLF, India's largest real estate firm.

Of main interest here to this blog: the long arm of the UK's Bribery Act  which is, indeed, causing consternation and fear in equal amounts.

If you believe reports in the local Economic Times, Aman may be about to change hands. It says Kingdom Holding Company, promoted by Saudi Arabian billionaire prince Al Waleed Bin Talal and a Chinese investor are vying with French luxury group LVMH to own the luxury hotel chain.

And some context. DLF is very well connected. Here's a recent snippet.

But no matter - I doubt the banter among invited guests at the Aman would change. It centred around the circular flow of money when the owners of a hotel pay for the wedding party of family at same hotel........and the inland revenue (equivalent) somehow gets left out of the party.

Back to signs of 'consternation and fear'. There is an amusing (to watch) sense of exasperated disbelief that the Bribery Act means what it says - from British businessmen operating in India.

The Economist has obligingly just published an analysis of 'Bribery; The Supply Side', quoting a Transparency International index just out. Based on questions to 3,000 businessmen, this ranks 28 countries (accounting for 80% of global trade and investment) by the perceived likelihood of their companies paying bribes. Russia and China scored worst by a hefty margin, but India is up there.

"Construction and industries involving government contracts, unsurprisingly, were the dirtiest" says The Economist.

Sadly, there is little change since the last time the index was published in 2008 - but since then steps have been taken by many countries. Saudi Arabia has set up an anti-corruption agency and India and China are among those to have passed anti-corruption laws.

Whether a possible change of ownership will make any difference to the talk around the Aman's sybaritic long and narrow swimming pool remains to be seen.

But one thing is clear, and the UK's prime minister David Cameron, might want to take note. The UK may well be leading the world with its tough Bribery Act. (Would that this could be emulated by also achieving  more diversity in its boardrooms.)

And as far as the anti-corruption campaign goes, those who are already frustrated by it might  to consider need medical help for insomnia threatening to become long-term.

Next year Transparency International will publish an updated ranking of big global companies, highlighting their use of offshore finance and their perceived willingness to pay bribes. Listen up, shareholders.

You can download  Transparency International's 2011 Bribe Payers Index here.

Categories: Corporate, Corruption, Transparency