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Transparency Study: Businesses from Industrialized Countries Still Practice Bribery - 2002-05-14

Three years after industrialized countries passed a special anti-bribery convention, a study released Tuesday finds bribery still widely practiced by many multinational businesses operating overseas. The new report by Transparency International suggests bribes are still common among many multinational businesses operating overseas. Most of these businesses are headquartered in the industrialized countries of Europe, North America and Asia, but also operate in developing countries.

The study surveyed 835 executives who are doing business in 15 emerging markets, countries like Mexico, India and Nigeria. The study found corruption is most rampant in such industries as construction, arms production and oil. The study also examined corruption on a country by country basis. It says businesses in Russia, China, Taiwan and Italy top the list as those most likely to engage in corrupt practices.

The release of the Transparency International report coincides with the annual ministerial meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Paris. Many of the industrialized country members of the OECD have ratified a three-year-old anti-bribery convention that bans bribery of foreign public officials.

But during a news conference in Paris, Transparency International's president, Peter Eigen, faulted OECD members for not enforcing the convention.

"We feel that the corruption which has become so prevalent all over the world is to a very large extent a responsibility of the North, of the rich countries, of the industrialized countries," Mr. Eigen said.

According to the report, businesses from Australia, Sweden and Switzerland were least likely to bribe foreign officials. Businesses in the United States ranked 13th out of the 21 countries surveyed in the list of bribe payers. Transparency International found American businessmen more likely to bribe today than when it published its last survey, in 1999.

In fact, Mr. Eigen said only seven percent of businessmen who responded to the survey were aware of the OECD's anti-bribery convention. He said OECD member nations must do more to enforce the agreement they ratified.