Criminalising bribery and ensuring enforcement


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The criminalisation of the bribery of public officials—both domestic and foreign—and the enforcement of these anti-bribery laws are a key component of a comprehensive anti-corruption framework and complements parallel efforts to prevent and detect corrupt behaviour.

CleanGovBiz offers suggested steps for the criminalisation of the bribery of domestic and foreign public officials. It does not cover other forms of corruption, such as embezzlement, trading in influence, or illicit enrichment. Nor does it cover the bribery of private individuals. It also focuses on ‘active bribery’ (the offering, promising or giving of a bribe) as opposed to ‘passive bribery’ (the asking or receiving of a bribe).

The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention is the first and only legally binding instrument to focus on the supply of bribes to public officials. Countries that are party to the Convention must prosecute individuals who offer, promise or give bribes to public officials and subject them to effective penalties including heavy fines or even prison time.


Priority checklist

Based on the Anti-Bribery Convention, these questions are addressed to policy makers who are interested in criminalising bribery and enforcing anti-bribery laws.


1. The bribery offence: Does your legislation consider the crime of bribery of a public official as a clear and unambiguous offence? 

2.  Corporate liability: Do national legislations hold companies responsible – either criminally or civilly/administratively – for the offences of domestic and foreign bribery?

3. Sanctions: Is bribery punishable by effective, proportionate, and dissuasive penalties and are bribes and the proceeds of bribes subject to confiscation?

4. Jurisdiction: When combating the bribery of domestic and foreign officials, can the offence of bribery be punished wherever it has been committed?

5. Investigative and prosecutorial independence:  Are investigations and prosecutions of bribery cases independent from considerations of national economic interest, the potential effect upon relations with another State, and the identity of the individuals or companies involved?

6. Statutes of limitations: Do investigators and prosecutors have a reasonable amount of time to follow a bribery case?

7. Investigative techniques: Do law enforcement authorities have access to the tools they need to effectively investigate the often complex cases of bribery of foreign and domestic public officials?

8. International co-operation: Does effective international cooperation support the investigation and prosecution of bribery cases, especially cases of transnational bribery?


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