By John Mackie

TORONTO, July 22 (Business Law Currents) – Though Canada has had foreign bribery legislation in effect for over a decade, prosecutions have proven very few and very far between. So it remains to be seen whether the recent guilty plea by Calgary’s Niko Resources under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act marks a scaling-up of Canadian efforts on this front, or just another blip on the radar screen.

Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) entered into force on February 14, 1999. The Act contemplates prosecutions in respect of three offences: bribing a foreign public official, laundering property and proceeds, and possession of property and proceeds. In addition, the CFPOA enables prosecutions for conspiracy, aiding and abetting, counselling, and the like.

One aspect of the CFPOA that has attracted criticism from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Transparency International is that there must be a “real and substantial link” between the offence and Canada. While a bill has been introduced to eliminate this requirement, it has not passed into law, and arguably remains a significant barrier to investigations.

According to the last report of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to Parliament on the enforcement of the CFPOA, prior to this year there had only been one conviction under the act. In 2005, Red Deer-based Hydro-Kleen Group Inc. pleaded guilty to two counts of bribing a U.S. immigration officer at the Calgary International Airport.

In addition, in 2010, charges under the CFPOA were laid by the RCMP against an employee of Cryptometrics, a facial and fingerprint recognition software company based in Ottawa. The allegations were that payments had been made to an Indian government official to facilitate the execution of a multi-million dollar supply contract. That matter apparently remains before the Canadian courts.