The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) charged the head of a commercial aircraft company with conspiring to bribe military officials in Thailand. The alleged conspiracy is connected to a deal involving aircraft from the Thailand national airline.
Larry Kushniruk, president of Canadian General Aircraft was charged in November under the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). The law makes it illegal for an individual or legal person to bribe a foreign public servant in order to obtain a business advantage.
The CFPOA was originally adopted to ensure the country’s compliance with the OECD Anti-corruption Convention but remained dormant for the decade following its adoption, stirring strong criticism from the OECD. Yet in the last years, Canada has seemingly intensified its effort to combat foreign bribery. So far, four cases have been successfully concluded and 20 are pending.
The latest annual report on Canada’s implementation of the OECD Convention showed that eleven individuals are currently being investigated in connection to four cases. The first — and so far only — individual found guilty under the CFPOA was Nazir Karigar. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice convicted him of agreeing with others to offer bribes to foreign public officials contrary to paragraph 3(1)(b) of the CFPOA.
Karigar received a three-year imprisonment sentence in 2013. That same year, amendments to the act increased the maximum imprisonment sentence from 5 to fourteen years.
Charges in this new matter against Larry Kushniruk are consistent with the interpretation of the CFPOA in the Karigar case, which held that conspiracy to bribe without actual transfer of monies or other value is sufficient to support a foreign bribery offense.
The Kushniruk prosecution also demonstrates increased cooperation between national law enforcement agencies. The investigation started after the RCMP was tipped off by the FBI. International cooperation in anti-bribery enforcement is increasing. That’s partly due to the International Foreign Bribery Taskforce. It was created in 2013 by the FBI, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Australian Federal Police, and the City of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit to facilitate real time information sharing in the context of cross-border bribery investigations and prosecutions.
Cooperation between multilateral development banks and national authorities is also likely to intensify in the future. In May 2016, in the context of a bribery investigation where the RCMP had been tipped off by the World Bank, the Supreme Court of Canada in World Bank v. Wallace overturned a court order compelling the organization to produce certain internal documents and require its investigators to testify. By upholding the immunity status of international organizations, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the critical role that they play in the fight against corruption and opened the door to increased information sharing with national law enforcement agencies.
This new prosecution is the latest signal that Canada is taking enforcement of the CFPOA seriously. Canadian businesses should be equally serious about their anti-bribery compliance efforts.
Elisabeth Danon is a Senior Adviser at the Montreal office of KPMG. She previously worked at the Anti-corruption Division of the OECD, and more recently at the World Bank as a legal analyst. She can be contacted here.