Combating bribery and money laundering has increasingly become an international priority. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was enacted in 1977; Transparency International started publishing its annual “corruption index” in 1995; the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials was agreed in 1997 and the UK Bribery Act came into force in 2010. Meanwhile, the scale of the problem is still great. The latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index for 2014 surveyed 175 countries as to the perceived level of public sector corruption and found 122 scored 50 or below on a scale of 100, where 0 was highly corrupt and 100 was very clean.
It is in this context that commentators have given greater prominence to tackling issues of corruption that may arise in arbitration. There are two principal scenarios in which corruption can become an issue in arbitral proceedings: the first is where the issue of corruption is raised by one of the parties, often as a ground for avoiding the enforcement of a contract. The second is where, in the course of proceedings, the tribunal becomes concerned about “red flags” indicating the possible presence of corruption, but without corruption being an open issue between the parties.