"The level of the sanction can be
reduced if a business can show that
there were adequate procedures in
place designed to prevent bribery."
1. What is bribery?
Under the Belgian Criminal Code, a distinction
is made between active and passive bribery in
the private and public sector.
Active public bribery is offering, promising or
giving an advantage of any kind, directly or
indirectly, to a person exercising a public
function either for him/herself or for anyone
else, in order to induce him/her to:
- perform an act within the scope of his/her
responsibilities which is not subject to
- perform an improper act, or refrain from a
proper act, in the exercise of his/her
- commit an offence in the exercise of
his/her function; or
- use influence derived from his/her function
to obtain performance or non-performance
of an act by a public authority.
Passive public bribery is defined as the
request or acceptance, directly or indirectly, of
an advantage of any kind, for himself/herself
or for anyone else, in exchange for a specific
action or omission (as set out above).
In Belgium, the following persons are also
considered as persons exercising a public
- A candidate for a public function;
- Anyone who pretends by use of a false
identity that he/she will exercise a public
function in the future;
- Anyone pretending to exercise a public
- Any person carrying out a public
function in a foreign state or in a public
Active private bribery, on the other hand, is
offering, promising or giving an advantage of
any kind, directly or indirectly, to a director,
manager or other representative of a legal
entity or natural person, for him/herself or for
anyone else, intending to induce him/her to
act or refrain from certain acts within his/her
function without the authorization of the board
of directors, the shareholders or principal.
Passive private bribery is defined as the
request or acceptance by a director or other
representative of a company, directly or
indirectly, of an offer, promise or advantage
of any kind, for him/herself or for anyone
else, to do or refrain from certain acts within
his/her function, without authorization of the
company’s board of directors, the
shareholders or principal.
2. What are the
There are few defences available once
bribery has been proven.
The level of the sanction may be reduced
if a business can show that there were
adequate procedures in place designed
to prevent bribery. In Belgium, companies
are encouraged to put in place a Code
3. What are the sanctions?
In the public sector, penalties range from
6 months to 10 years imprisonment and/or
€600 to €600,000 in fines. The maximum
sanctions apply in case of bribery of police
officers, members of the public prosecutor’s
office or judges.
In the private sector, penalties range from
6 months to 3 years imprisonment and/or
€600 to €300,000 in fines. Apart from the
negative publicity, a legal entity could also
be added to the public procurement black
list. In addition, a company may be denied
certain fiscal advantages previously enjoyed.
More from the Anti-Bribery and Corruption Guide:
Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.