02/05/2013 03:24 EST | Updated 04/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Canada to crack down on foreign corruption, bribery

The federal government is redoubling its efforts to combat corruption and bribery by tabling amendments to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA), Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday.

In its pursuit of "an aggressive, pro-trade agenda," the federal government wants to make clear that Canadian businesses are expected to "play by the rules."

The Conservatives introduced the amendments to the CFPOA in in the Senate Tuesday in an effort to further deter and prevent Canadian companies from bribing foreign public officials.

"These amendments will help ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade," Baird said in Ottawa.

"This, we hope, is a good faith sign that Canada’s good name retains its currency."

The CFPOA makes it a criminal offence in Canada for people or companies to bribe foreign public officials to obtain or retain an advantage in the course of international business.

The proposed amendments to the act include:

- Measures to make it easier for Canada to prosecute Canadians or Canadian companies for bribery in other countries.

- Providing exclusive authority to the RCMP to lay charges under the act.

- Removing the words "for profit" in the definition of business to ensure that the act applies to all business.

- Increasing the foreign bribery offence from a maximum of five years imprisonment and unlimited fines to a 14-year jail term.

Paul Dewar, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, said while the New Democrats were not consulted on the amendments, he welcomed the announcement and was eager to see the details.

To date, there have been three convictions under the CFPOA.

Griffiths Energy International Inc., based in Calgary, pleaded guilty on Jan. 22 to a charge under the CFPOA related to securing an oil and gas contract in Chad. Griffiths will pay a total penalty of $10.35 million.

Niko Resources Ltd., a publicly traded company based in Calgary, entered a guilty plea for one count of bribery on June 24, 2011. It was fined $9.5 million and placed under a probation order.

Hydro-Kleen Group Inc., based out of Red Deer, entered a guilty plea on Jan. 10, 2005, to one count of bribery and was ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.