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A word of advice to people looking to do overseas business deals: think twice about greasing any palms, especially in China, Nigeria, and Iraq.

An analysis by the James Mintz Group, an investigative firm, of bribery prosecutions by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission shows that these three countries accounted for 31 of the 76 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases from 1999 to 2009.

Among its provisions, the FCPA forbids making payments to foreign officials in order to garner or retain business. And as the Mintz Group points out, the number of cases being brought and the penalties being handed out both have surged. Globally, South America, Asia, and the Middle East (indicated on the map below by the Pepto-pink color) account for most of the FCPA cases prosecuted in the last decade.

U.S. officials are increasingly identifying heads of state, ruling family members, or “extremely powerful government figures” as taking bribes, according to the analysis. The biggest FCPA case ever was in December 2008 when Uncle Sam prosecuted German uber-company Siemans AG. Siemans eventually agreed to pay $800 million to settle its bribery charges in four countries.

For more on the topic, check out “The Business of Bribes” by Frontline World.

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