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Seminar warns firms of US anticorruption law

Seminar warns firms of US anticorruption law

THE development NGO Pact Cambodia and the American Chamber of Commerce held a seminar Tuesday to raise awareness in Cambodia of the increased risk of prosecution faced by foreign businesses that engage in corrupt practices.

The seminar focused on the US justice department’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which applies outside US borders.

Jim Swander, a representative of the American Chamber of Commerce, said the justice department had been enforcing the act vigorously in the past few years.

He said the purpose of the conference, which was attended by more than 100 local business leaders, was not to alarm people, but to increase awareness of the risks businesses face when operating in countries such as Cambodia that are known for corruption.

“I think what we’re trying to do is say, ‘Be aware of the risks you’re taking’. Because you look at doing business in Asia, and if you look at the map of Transparency International, where there’s corruption, Asia and Africa are the major areas,” Swander said, referring to the group that ranked Cambodia 158th on its annual Corruption Perceptions Index in 2009.

He added that the recent increase in FCPA investigations and prosecutions had netted numerous high-profile companies – including Siemens and BAE Systems, which were each fined hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2008, an FCPA investigation concluded that Siemens had paid US$1.36 billion in bribes to government officials around the world. The company ended up paying $800 million in the case – $450 million of which went to the US justice department, while $350 million went to the securities and exchange commission.

Kenny Mok, the regional compliance officer for Siemens Singapore, told the conference his company had completely revised its internal culture with respect to corruption since the settlement, according to a press release issued by the organisers.

“Siemens now understands that ‘the tone from the top’ has to be lived and communicated especially by the middle management,” he said, according to the release.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Tuesday that the government was not involved in any FCPA-related corruption investigations, but that officials are open to the idea of cooperating with the US government on such cases in the future.

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