"Since the amended law became
effective in November 2015
German bribery law covers even
more business activities. Therefore,
companies should train their directors
and employees accordingly."
1. What is bribery?
The German Criminal Code differentiates
between bribery in the public sector and in
In the public sector, the law prohibits both
payment to and receipt of bribes by public
officials, persons entrusted with special public
service functions and soldiers. Payments to a
public official are generally prohibited
regardless of whether or not the payment is
for the purpose of receiving a benefit. This is
to avoid any public misconception that
payments to public officials derive benefits.
An offence of aggravated bribery is
established where the offence relates to a
‘major benefit’ or the offender continuously
pays or accepts benefits and their purpose is
the continued commission of such offences.
In the private sector, an employee or agent of
a business must not demand, allow himself to
be promised, or accept a benefit for himself
or another person in a business transaction
as consideration for according an unfair
preference in the competitive purchase of
goods or commercial services. The same
applies to anyone who offers, promises or
grants such persons a benefit in this context.
Private sector offences also fall under the law
governing administrative offences that
establishes liability in respect of a company’s
directors as well as legal entities. Therefore, if
an employee of a company bribes an
employee or any public official while acting for
the company, the company’s directors may
be liable if they wilfully or negligently omitted
adequate supervision. Liability may also
attach to the company itself.
2. What are the
A business could avoid conviction under the
corporate offence of bribery if it can show
that there were adequate procedures in
place designed to prevent active and
passive bribery. For example, as there is an
exception for gifts up to a certain value (up
to approximately €50, but subject to a case
by case assessment) a business should
provide guidance in this respect.
3. What are the sanctions?
Criminal sanctions range from fines (the
amounts depending on the perpetrator’s
income) to imprisonment of up to three years
and up to ten years for aggravated cases.
Administrative fines against the company can
amount to up to €10,000,000. Fines against
the proprietors of businesses, directors and
other authorised representatives can amount
to up to €1,000,000.
More from the Anti-Bribery and Corruption Guide:
Australia, Belgium, China, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.