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Website zeros in on global bribery

It collects anonymous tips to identify hot spots that need attention.

August 06, 2007|Michael Peel | Financial Times

International companies and private individuals are making hundreds of reports a week to an Internet hotline launched last month to map bribery worldwide and help businesses plan how to deal with it.

Trace, a nonprofit group set up to help companies tackle corruption, says its website, at, already has received more than 1,000 reports from 89 countries, from people claiming officials have asked them for payoffs ranging from less than $20 to more than $500,000.

The scale and diversity of the responses highlight both the global extent of corruption and the increased sensitivity to it as the U.S. and other countries step up action against alleged bribery involving multinational companies.

Michelle Gavin, a Trace board member, said the hotline was intended primarily as a tool to help business highlight bribery hot spots that need particular attention, whether in specific countries, branches of government or international organizations.

"In aggregate it should provide new information on what the nature of bribery is in a specific place," she said. "Is it mostly gifts? Is it mostly entertainment? Do federal legislators really always ask for meals?"

The hotline asks those who log on anonymously nine questions about the details of the bribe request.

These include the reasons for it, the type of post held by the requester and the nature of the demand, which can be as diverse as university scholarships and sexual favors.

Annapolis, Md.-based Trace, whose members include some of the world's largest multinational corporations, said the hotline reports so far dealt with the "full range" of bribery values, including some in the highest category of more than half a million dollars.

Gavin said the hotline data should enable companies to take practical action, such as targeting their anti-bribery efforts at top executives.

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