Danckert Bärlein Partner

Criminal Corruption Law

The laws governing corruption have become much more stringent in Germany over the past 20 years. Few areas of criminal law have so many gray areas or such drastic consequences for those who become targets of an investigation.

Today, it is possible to be targeted based on behaviors which were considered completely innocent until recently. Invitations to a dinner party, conversations before a bid is published, sponsoring an event or even a bouquet of flowers for a birthday can be enough to trigger investigations.

Another factor is the long arm of the German authorities, whose powers have been extended by the Law on Bribery of Foreign Officials in International Business Transactions. Foreign authorities, for their part, have also been granted expansionary powers to investigate German private parties and businesses by national regulations such as the UK Bribery Act.

Officials who are convicted of corruption offenses face not only criminal punishments but career termination and the loss of pension claims. Even when the outcome is positive, the reputational damages – especially for elected officials – are irreparable.

The accusation of bribery (§ 334 Penal Code) or granting of an undue advantage (§ 333 Penal Code) is itself very dangerous to private parties and firms. In addition to painful fines, firms may face addition to the corruption register, which excludes them from competing for public contracts and can amount to a total ban on business activity.

Lesser-known provisions such as taking and giving bribes in commercial practice (§ 299 Penal Code) are also applied in more and more situations. Licensed physicians can also be prosecuted under this provision (§§ 299a, 299b Penal Code) if they accept certain benefits.

Our lawyers have defended many individuals and firms in such cases, and have also advised officials, associations, and other vulnerable groups on the risks posed by criminal corruption laws. Further, they advise firms from many different areas on preventive measures, and help them keep their compliance regulations up to date with current legal developments.

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