Bribery, corruption crimes laws & Punishments in UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has strict laws and regulations in place to combat bribery and corruption. With a zero-tolerance policy towards these offenses, the country imposes severe penalties on individuals and organizations found guilty of engaging in such unlawful activities. The UAE’s anti-corruption efforts aim to maintain transparency, uphold the rule of law, and foster a fair business environment for all stakeholders. By taking a firm stance against bribery and corruption, the UAE seeks to cultivate trust, attract foreign investment, and establish itself as a leading global business hub built on principles of accountability and ethical conduct.

What is the definition of bribery under UAE law?

Under the UAE’s legal system, bribery is broadly defined as the act of offering, promising, giving, demanding, or accepting an undue advantage or incentive, whether directly or indirectly, in exchange for a person to act or refrain from acting in the performance of their duties. This encompasses both active and passive forms of bribery, involving public officials as well as private individuals and entities. Bribery can take various forms, including cash payments, gifts, entertainment, or any other form of gratification intended to improperly influence the recipient’s decision or actions.

The UAE’s Federal Penal Code and other relevant laws provide a comprehensive framework for defining and addressing various forms of bribery. This includes offenses such as bribery of public servants, bribery in the private sector, bribery of foreign public officials, and facilitation payments. The laws also cover related offenses like embezzlement, abuse of power, money laundering, and trading in influence, which often intersect with bribery and corruption cases. Notably, the UAE’s anti-bribery legislation applies not only to individuals but also to corporations and other legal entities, holding them accountable for corrupt practices. It also aims to maintain integrity, transparency, and accountability across all sectors, fostering a fair and ethical business environment while promoting good governance and the rule of law.

What are the different types of bribery recognized in the UAE?

Type of BriberyDescription
Bribery of Public OfficialsOffering or accepting bribes to influence the actions or decisions of government officials, including ministers, judges, law enforcement officers, and public servants.
Bribery in the Private SectorOffering or accepting bribes in the context of commercial transactions or business dealings, involving private individuals or entities.
Bribery of Foreign Public OfficialsBribing foreign public officials or officials of public international organizations to obtain or retain business or an undue advantage.
Facilitation PaymentsSmall unofficial payments made to expedite or secure the performance of routine government actions or services to which the payer is legally entitled.
Trading in InfluenceOffering or accepting an undue advantage to influence the decision-making process of a public official or authority.
EmbezzlementThe misappropriation or transfer of property or funds entrusted to someone’s care for personal gain.
Abuse of PowerThe improper use of an official position or authority for personal benefit or to benefit others.
Money LaunderingThe process of concealing or disguising the origins of illegally obtained money or assets.

The UAE’s anti-bribery laws cover a broad range of corrupt practices, ensuring that various forms of bribery and related offenses are addressed and punished accordingly, regardless of the context or parties involved.

What are the key provisions of the UAE’s anti-bribery law?

Here are the key provisions of the UAE’s anti-bribery law:

  • Comprehensive definition covering public and private bribery: The law provides a broad definition of bribery that encompasses both the public and private sectors, ensuring that corrupt practices in any context are addressed.
  • Criminalizes active and passive bribery, including foreign officials: The law criminalizes both the act of offering a bribe (active bribery) and the act of accepting a bribe (passive bribery), extending its reach to instances involving foreign public officials.
  • Prohibits facilitation or “grease” payments: The law prohibits the payment of small unofficial sums, known as facilitation or “grease” payments, which are often used to expedite routine government actions or services.
  • Harsh penalties like imprisonment and hefty fines: The law imposes severe penalties for bribery offenses, including lengthy prison sentences and substantial financial fines, serving as a strong deterrent against such corrupt practices.
  • Corporate liability for employee/agent bribery offenses: The law holds organizations liable for bribery offenses committed by their employees or agents, ensuring that companies maintain robust anti-bribery compliance programs and exercise due diligence.
  • Extraterritorial reach for UAE nationals/residents abroad: The law extends its jurisdiction to cover bribery offenses committed by UAE nationals or residents outside the country, allowing for prosecution even if the offense occurred abroad.
  • Whistleblower protection to encourage reporting: The law includes provisions to protect whistleblowers who report instances of bribery or corruption, encouraging individuals to come forward with information without fear of retaliation.
  • Confiscation of bribery-derived proceeds: The law allows for the confiscation and recovery of any proceeds or assets derived from bribery offenses, ensuring that those involved in corrupt practices cannot benefit from their illicit gains.
  • Mandatory compliance programs for UAE organizations: The law mandates that organizations operating in the UAE implement robust anti-bribery compliance programs, including policies, procedures, and training, to prevent and detect bribery.
  • International cooperation in bribery probes/prosecutions: The law facilitates international cooperation and mutual legal assistance in bribery investigations and prosecutions, enabling cross-border collaboration and information sharing to combat transnational bribery cases effectively.

What are the punishments for bribery offenses in the UAE?

The United Arab Emirates takes a zero-tolerance approach towards bribery and corruption, with strict penalties outlined in the Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021 on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law, specifically Articles 275 to 287 of the UAE Penal Code. The consequences for bribery offenses are severe and vary based on the nature of the offense and the parties involved.

Bribery Involving Public Officials

  1. Imprisonment Term
    • Demanding, accepting, or receiving gifts, benefits, or promises in exchange for performing, omitting, or violating official duties can lead to a temporary imprisonment sentence ranging from 3 to 15 years (Articles 275-278).
    • The length of the imprisonment term is dependent on the severity of the offense and the positions held by the individuals involved.
  2. Financial Penalties
    • In addition to or as an alternative to imprisonment, substantial fines can be imposed.
    • These fines are often calculated based on the value of the bribe or as a multiple of the bribe amount.

Bribery in the Private Sector

  1. Active Bribery (Offering a Bribe)
    • Offering a bribe in the private sector is a punishable offense, carrying a potential imprisonment term of up to 5 years (Article 283).
  2. Passive Bribery (Accepting a Bribe)
    • Accepting a bribe in the private sector can result in imprisonment for up to 3 years (Article 284).

Additional Consequences and Penalties

  1. Asset Confiscation
    • The UAE authorities have the power to confiscate any assets or property derived from or used in the commission of bribery offenses (Article 285).
  2. Debarment and Blacklisting
    • Individuals and companies found guilty of bribery may face debarment from participating in government contracts or being blacklisted from conducting business in the UAE.
  3. Corporate Penalties
    • Companies involved in bribery offenses can face severe penalties, including suspension or revocation of business licenses, dissolution, or placement under judicial supervision.
  4. Additional Penalties for Individuals
    • Individuals convicted of bribery offenses may face additional penalties, such as the loss of civil rights, prohibition from holding certain positions, or deportation for non-UAE nationals.

The UAE’s strict stance on bribery offenses underscores the importance of maintaining ethical business practices and implementing robust anti-corruption policies and procedures. Seeking legal advice and adhering to the highest standards of integrity is crucial for individuals and organizations operating in the UAE.

How does the UAE handle the investigation and prosecution of bribery cases?

The United Arab Emirates has established specialized anti-corruption units within law enforcement agencies, such as the Dubai Public Prosecution and the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, responsible for investigating bribery allegations. These units employ trained investigators and prosecutors who work closely with financial intelligence units, regulatory bodies, and other government entities. They have broad powers to gather evidence, seize assets, freeze bank accounts, and obtain relevant documents and records.

Once sufficient evidence is gathered, the case is referred to the Public Prosecution Office, which reviews the evidence and decides whether to pursue criminal charges. Prosecutors in the UAE are independent and have the authority to bring cases before the courts. The UAE’s judicial system follows strict legal procedures, adhering to the principles of due process and fair trial, with defendants having the right to legal representation and the opportunity to present their defense.

Furthermore, the State Audit Institution (SAI) plays a crucial role in monitoring and auditing government agencies and ensuring the proper use of public funds. If instances of bribery or misuse of public funds are detected, the SAI can refer the matter to the appropriate authorities for further investigation and potential prosecution.

What are the defenses available for bribery charges under UAE law?

Under the UAE’s legal framework, individuals or entities facing bribery charges may have several defenses available to them, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Here are some potential defenses that could be raised:

  1. Lack of Intent or Knowledge
    • The defendant may argue that they did not have the necessary intent or knowledge to commit the bribery offense.
    • This defense could be applicable if the defendant can demonstrate that they acted without understanding the true nature of the transaction or that they were unaware of the existence of a bribe.
  2. Duress or Coercion
    • If the defendant can prove that they were under duress or coerced into accepting or offering a bribe, this could serve as a defense.
    • However, the burden of proof for establishing duress or coercion is typically high, and the defendant must provide compelling evidence to support this claim.
  3. Entrapment
    • In cases where the defendant was induced or entrapped into committing the bribery offense by law enforcement authorities or government officials, an entrapment defense may be applicable.
    • The defendant must demonstrate that they had no predisposition to commit the offense and were subjected to undue pressure or inducement by the authorities.
  4. Mistake of Fact or Law
    • The defendant may argue that they made a genuine mistake of fact or law, leading them to believe that their actions were not illegal.
    • This defense is challenging to establish, as the UAE’s anti-bribery laws are widely publicized and well-known.
  5. Lack of Jurisdiction
    • In cases involving cross-border elements, the defendant may challenge the UAE’s jurisdiction over the alleged offense.
    • This defense could be relevant if the bribery offense took place entirely outside the UAE’s territorial jurisdiction.
  6. Statute of Limitations
    • Depending on the specific bribery offense and the applicable statute of limitations under UAE law, the defendant may argue that the prosecution is time-barred and cannot proceed.

It’s important to note that the availability and success of these defenses will depend on the specific circumstances of each case and the evidence presented. Defendants facing bribery charges in the UAE are advised to seek legal counsel from experienced attorneys familiar with the UAE’s anti-bribery laws and legal system.

How does the UAE’s anti-bribery law apply to corporations and businesses in UAE?

The UAE’s anti-bribery laws, including the Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021 on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law, apply to corporations and businesses operating within the country. Companies can be held criminally liable for bribery offenses committed by their employees, agents, or representatives acting on behalf of the company.

Corporate liability can arise when a bribery offense is committed for the benefit of the company, even if the company’s management or leadership was unaware of the illegal conduct. Corporations can face severe penalties, including substantial fines, suspension or revocation of business licenses, dissolution, or placement under judicial supervision.

To mitigate risks, businesses in the UAE are expected to implement robust anti-bribery and corruption policies, conduct due diligence on third-party intermediaries, and provide regular training to employees on compliance with anti-bribery laws. Failure to maintain adequate internal controls and preventive measures can expose companies to significant legal and reputational consequences.

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