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Russian companies are most likely to bribe foreign officials

Russian companies seeking public works and construction contracts are the most likely to bribe foreign officials, while Belgian firms are the least inclined to do so, a survey by monitor Transparency International (TI) found.

TI's Bribe-Payers Index ranks 22 of the wealthiest and most economically influential countries by the propensity of their companies to offer bribes abroad. The measure also lists the likelihood of bribes by industry.

Belgium and Canada attained the highest score, 8.8 out of 10, while Russia and China got the lowest, reaching 5.9 and 6.5 respectively. A higher score reflected a lower likelihood of bribery.

The index shows that companies from major exporting countries "still use bribery to win business abroad, despite awareness of its damaging impact on corporate reputations and ordinary communities", TI chairwoman Huguette Labelle said yesterday. "The inequity and injustice that corruption causes makes it vital for governments to redouble their efforts to enforce existing laws."

In the rankings, Switzerland fell two places after coming top of the index in 2006. The UK gained one place from sixth, while the US stayed joint ninth.

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