Bribery, corruption and sanctions evasion

Bribery, corruption and the evasion of sanctions pose a serious risk to the UK's national security, economic prosperity and international reputation. We work with partners in the UK and around the world to investigate offenders, identify the proceeds of bribery and corruption and where possible return funds to victims.

The threat from bribery, corruption and sanctions evasion

Bribery is a pervasive form of corruption existing at all levels in countries affected by corruption. Bribery facilitates serious criminality, including the trafficking of people, drugs and firearms across national borders.

Bribery of public officials erodes public confidence in the judiciary, government institutions and undermines the rule of law. Where UK companies or individuals are involved this can undermine the UK’s ability to promote sustainable growth and to meet our international obligations.

Corrupt payments to secure contracts distort markets and endanger fair competition. It contributes to economic hardship, social inequality and loss of jobs.

The involvement of UK nationals or companies in sanctions evasion likewise damages the UK’s international reputation and undermines foreign policy goals of the UK and partners.

Corruption by foreign public figures or 'politically exposed persons' can have devastating consequences for developing countries. The scale of corruption can be vast, with individuals often siphoning billions of pounds from state funds. In many developing nations endemic corruption can be a key factor in civil disturbance and regime changes.

The UK is a favoured destination to launder and invest the proceeds of international corruption, particularly in the London property market. This poses significant reputational and financial risks to the UK.

Professional enablers such as solicitors and accountants are vital facilitators of bribery, corruption and sanctions evasion, using their expertise to draft documentation, disseminate funds, and create corporate structures and in some cases act as intermediaries.

Our response

We lead UK law enforcement’s response to bribery, corruption and sanctions evasion.

Corruption at the border is a key vulnerability and therefore a major focus for law enforcement. We provide regular support to partners through intelligence development and providing specialist operational capability. We also work closely with other government departments to tackle wider public sector corruption.

Our reach is not limited to the UK. We work to increase protection against corruption overseas, by engaging with foreign law enforcement agencies to improve their response to this threat.

International Corruption Unit

Our International Corruption Unit (ICU) investigates international bribery, corruption and related money laundering offences. Its key role is to investigate:

  • Money laundering in the UK resulting from corruption of high-ranking officials overseas
  • Bribery involving UK–based companies or nationals which has an international element
  • Cross-border bribery where there is a link to the UK

The ICU also traces and recovers the proceeds of international corruption. 

Other functions include:

  • Supporting HM Treasury with the enforcement of financial sanctions
  • Supporting foreign law enforcement agencies with international anti-corruption investigations
  • Engaging with government and business to reduce the UK’s exposure to the proceeds of corruption
  • Working with businesses to support increased compliance with the Bribery Act 2010


The ICU works to a number of different Conventions and Statutes.  The main ones are:

International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre

We are a member of the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre which brings together specialist law enforcement officers from agencies around the world to tackle bribery and corruption at a global level.

International Foreign Bribery Taskforce

We are also a member of the International Foreign Bribery Taskforce (IFBT). The IFBT is made up of specialised bribery investigators from the UK, Australia, Canada and the USA.  It strengthens the law enforcement response to foreign bribery on an international scale by providing a platform for police experts to share knowledge, skills, methodologies and case studies from international bribery investigations.

The result is that a network of specialist foreign bribery investigators is now in place from countries with some of the world’s most comprehensive anti-bribery laws.  Taskforce officers are increasingly working collaboratively on foreign bribery investigations, to bring offenders to justice across the globe.  

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