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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transnational Criminal Law or the Transnational Legal Ordering of Corruption?


To date, “transnational criminal law” has been the dominant paradigm for explaining and mapping rules on corruption in the international legal literature. Transnational criminal law is presented as a system of law descending from multilateral crime control treaties or a field or order that emerges through international political processes of regime formation. Transnational criminal lawyers identify and describe cross-border legal rules, and seek to evaluate them against liberal norms of democratic governance and individual civil and political human rights. This Article details the limits of transnational criminal conceptions of “anticorruption” through a study of proposed changes to Australian laws on corporate foreign bribery. Drawing on primary and secondary documentary sources, domestic and international, it shows that the emerging antipodean rules are only partially transnational, as that term is understood in transnational criminal law theory. Likewise, multilateral “suppression conventions” and related soft laws are but one impetus for the proposed changes to Australian federal anticorruption legislation. Rather, as the transnational legal ordering literature suggests, a recursive process appears to be at work between international organizations and local legislators, as well as transnational non-state actors, both charities and businesses. This process is marked by moments of borrowing from (former) patrons, the US and the UK. However, it is also punctuated by themes of modernization, economic efficiency, and reputation. In addition, Australian anti-corruption activities may result not just in changes to national criminal law, but also in the development of “new” – and controversial – techniques of governance.

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