Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Legislation Bill

Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Legislation Bill

A step towards a comprehensive New Zealand anti-corruption and bribery framework

Transparency International New Zealand welcomes discussion of the Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Legislation Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on 25 June 2014.

The omnibus Bill contains amendments to existing New Zealand legislation aimed at targeting and further disrupting the activities of organised criminal groups. The legislation also seeks to enhance New Zealand’s anti-corruption legislation framework and bring the country in line with international best practice set by international conventions.

What does the Bill do?

In the anti-corruption sphere, the Bill should allow New Zealand to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), a long-awaited step because New Zealand’s signing of the Convention back in 2003.  It also enables the implementation of the Agreement between United States and New Zealand on Enhancing Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Crime, and improves New Zealand’s compliance with a number of other international conventions. (These include the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, the United Nations convention against Transnational Organised Crime, and the United Nations Anti-Trafficking Protocol).

The Ministry of Justice's Departmental Disclosure Statement for the Bill outlines the anti-corruption legislative amendments as including:

  • amendments to the definition of “crime involving dishonesty”, “business” and “routine government action” in the Crimes Act to ensure the foreign bribery offences applies to bribery in relation to the provision of international aid and the facilitation payments exception is not open to abuse;
  • amendment to the foreign bribery offence in the Crimes Act to ensure that New Zealand can prosecute foreign bribery regardless of whether it was an offence in the country in which the conduct occurred;
  • amendment to the Crimes Act to criminalise the acceptance of a bribe by foreign public official and the acceptance of a bribe in return for using one’s influence over an official;
  • amendments to the Companies Act 1993 to clarify the obligation of companies to record small facilitation payments in a consistent manner;
  • amendment to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act to ensure that New Zealand can provide international assistance in corruption investigation and prosecution.

Facilitation payments still legal

As the Bill stands, no amendments have been made to change the current legality of facilitation payments.  It is not considered “bribery of a foreign public official” under the Crimes Act if a person makes a payment for the sole or primary purpose of ensuring or expediting the performance of a foreign public official of a routine government action, and the benefit’s value is small. Therefore, New Zealand has not adopted the approach taken by the UK Bribery Act 2010, which does not recognise the legality of facilitating payments, and does not draw any distinction between a facilitation payment and bribery.

An anomaly?

The Bill also includes a new provision, which clarifies the ability of a body corporate to commit the offence of bribery of a foreign public official.  However, it seems unclear why the Bill expressly makes this clarification for bribery by a body corporate of “foreign officials”, but not for domestic officials.  This “foreign” distinction for the body corporate offence is not yet explained in any report or Regulatory Impact Analysis.

A positive development towards a comprehensive New Zealand anti-corruption and bribery framework

One key recommendation from the TINZ Integrity Plus New Zealand 2013 National Integrity System Assessment (Assessment) is for New Zealand to develop a comprehensive national anti-corruption strategy combined with a rapid ratification of UNCAC. The Bill is a positive step toward the legal framework for this recommendation. The Bill also addresses some major risks to New Zealand’s Integrity systems raised in the Assessment. 

TINZ looks forward to seeing the progress of the Bill, and hopes that it will contribute to ongoing national awareness of corruption issues, and promote New Zealand’s zero tolerance of bribery and corruption, whether at home or overseas.  As it moves through Parliament, TINZ will  evaluate the Bill’s content to assess whether it provides the necessary update to New Zealand's anti-corruption legislation.

The full provisions of the Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill are available online through the website.

The full report and executive summary of the Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment are available online at

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