What is the foreign bribery law in the UAE?

What is bribery, and why is it an offence?

Bribery refers to the offence of promising, offering or granting, either directly or indirectly, a person to either perform or to omit an act that is included in their duties or constitutes a violation of their duties.

In many jurisdiction’s bribery is a criminal offence, especially when the act is committed to bribe a public official. The criminal act comprises any conduct that is aimed to influence the public official in their official capacity or to induce the official to do something illegal or to allow for something illegal to occur by failing to take action can be termed as a bribe.

UAE Anti- Bribery Laws:

The UAE does not have a particular anti-bribery law, and instead, the applicable provisions are part of Federal Law no. 3 of 1987 promulgating the penal code and its amendments (UAE penal Code). Articles 234 to 239 of the UAE penal code provide for the main provisions governing the anti-corruption and anti-bribery practices in the region.

Article 234 states ‘Shall be sentenced to term imprisonment, every public servant or person in charge of a public service who asked or accepted for himself or for others any grant or privilege of any kind or a promise thereof in return of performing or abstaining from doing an act in breach of the duties of his office. Should the performance or abstention from doing are act be a duty, the penalty shall be imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years. The provision of this Article (shall apply even if the public servant or the person in charge of a public service intends not to perform or abstain from doing this act’.

In 2016 the UAE Penal Code was amended in order to expand the application of bribery to ‘foreign officials‘ as well as to employees of international organizations in the emirate. The changes provided a new definition for a ‘foreign public official’ as “any person in a legislative, executive, administrative or judicial position at another country, whether permanently or temporarily, be elected or appointed…“.

Pursuant to the latest changes affected the UAE anti-bribery regulations have an extra-territorial effect now when either:

  • The criminal or victim of the bribery offence is a UAE national; or
  • The bribery offence is committed by a person employed by a UAE public or private company; or
  • The bribery offence involves “public property”, which may include any moveable and immovable property owned, either directly or indirectly, by any level by the UAE government, state enterprises or organizations.

International companies carrying out business activities within the UAE should therefore give heed to the best local practices and anti-bribery regulations affected in the region, especially since the latest amendments have redefined ex-territoriality provisions in charges of bribery. In addition, a foreign public official will also be subject to special anti-bribery legislation as applicable in international jurisdictions, which they would be obliged to comply with in addition to the local regulations in the UAE.

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