How common are government authority investigations into allegations of bribery?

Bribery & Corruption (2nd edition)

China Small Flag China

Government authority investigations frequently take place regarding the allegations of bribery, which is reflected in statistics published by the Supreme People's Procuratorate which show that 96,870 people were investigated and prosecuted for bribery related issues from 2013 to 2017, an increase of by 28% in the past five years. According to the Work Reports of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, 10,472 people were investigated and prosecuted for the taking of bribery in 2016, and 7,375 people were investigated and prosecuted for the offering of bribery. The statistics also increased respectively to 15,662 and 8,298 in 2017.

As for administrative enforcement, according to the written decisions of administrative penalties published by the Administration for Market Regulation (“AMR”) in Shanghai, from 2016 to 2018, more than 360 entities in Shanghai were penalized for commercial bribery with the monetary penalties adding up to RMB 248 million in total, including confiscation of illegal gains and fines imposed.

Due to the concealment of bribery acts, oftentimes only between the bribery offering party and the receiving party, investigations are mostly triggered by whistle-blowing reports (eg. from competitors) or the implications with other cases. The government has been improving its reporting mechanism by establishing multiple platforms and channels with the involvement of the Public Security Bureau (“PSB”), the People’s Procuratorate (“Procuratorate”), the Disciplinary Committee of Communist Party of China, AMR, etc. Additionally, though rare in occasion, enforcement actions by Chinese authorities can also be triggered by the penalty announcement published by other jurisdictions which involve citizens or the entities in China.

France Small Flag France

In the past decade, the fight against corruption has been given increasing importance by French authorities. In that respect, the adoption of the Sapin II anticorruption Act in December 2016 marked a decisive step. The number of criminal proceedings has increased, while remaining relatively low in comparison with other jurisdictions such as the UK or the US.

As an indication, the PNF dealt with 225 bribery cases in 2017 and 241 in 2018, which amounts to a 7,11% increase. In parallel, the AFA started auditing public and private stakeholders of a certain size as to the existence and effectivity of their anticorruption programs. The first six controls were launched in October 2017, followed by a second wave in February 2018. The AFA intends to perform 50 controls a year once ‘cruising speed’ is reached, bearing in mind that, for the time being, this type of audit is only to target some 1,500 companies, which fall within the scope of Sapin II requirements.

Germany Small Flag Germany

According to police crime statistics for the year 2017, criminal offences in relation to bribery registered by the police decreased compared to 2016 by roughly 25 percent. In summary, according to police crime statistics in 2017 the lowest corruption rate in 5 years was reported. The numbers dropped from approximately 6,500 in 2016 to 4,890 investigated cases in 2017. In contrast, the damages caused by those crimes have increased substantially.

Greece Small Flag Greece

Under Greek Law the competent authorities for investigating allegations of bribery, i.e. the prosecuting authorities, are under an obligation to initiate a preliminary inquiry as soon as they are informed on possible misconduct. This information may be a formal complaint, an anonymous tip or even information leaked to the Press. This is also the case for other criminal acts, so opening an investigation into allegations of bribery does not require exercising discretionary power by the authorities (whether to start an investigation or not) but normal progress of the procedure.

Given that at least two Authorities are awarded power to investigate exclusively (Anti-Corruption Prosecutor) or primarily (the General Inspector of Public Administration) acts of corruption, it is evident that all relevant allegations are being investigated.

Ireland Small Flag Ireland

To date, investigations into allegations of bribery or corruption in Ireland have been uncommon. This trend appears however to be slowly changing. The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau now has a team dedicated to the investigation of serious and complex economic crimes to include the investigation of all cases of bribery and corruption. One would also anticipate that following the Government’s Review of anti-fraud anti-corruption measures as referred to above, there will be a renewed focus on the enforcement and prosecution of allegations of bribery and corruption.

Italy Small Flag Italy

Government authority investigations into allegations of bribery are not very common in Italy, as almost all the aspects related to bribery conducts fall under the jurisdiction of the criminal courts (and the Public Prosecutor’s Offices there established).

Belgium Small Flag Belgium

As explained above under question 2, bribery investigations are led by the Public Prosecution or by the Investigating Judge and not by government authorities. However, please note that the Minister of Justice has a positive right of injunction, meaning that the Minister can oblige the Public Prosecution to investigate a case. However, this does not entail that the Minister of Justice can carry out investigation acts.

Japan Small Flag Japan

In recent years, the police have investigated 30-40 domestic bribery cases per year. Even though investigations of foreign bribery cases have been rare in Japan, authorities are now paying more attention to them than ever before. In each of 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2018, companies were investigated for violations of the UCPA, and directors or employees were prosecuted in every case. The 2018 case was the first case to be prosecuted using the new plea-bargaining system in Japan (see Answer 16).

Kenya Small Flag Kenya

The Kenya Government has declared war on corruption. It is very common for Government authorities to conduct investigations into allegations of bribery. Recently, there has been a rise in the number of investigations undertaken by the EACC, most being high profile cases of bribery and corruption with a lot of public interest.

United States Small Flag United States

Bribery investigations by the DOJ and SEC are common and each agency has a dedicated FCPA unit. Investigations may be initiated as a result of a company’s self-disclosure of a violation, a whistle-blower report by a competitor, current or former employee or third party, or the government’s own independent discovery of potential violations.

Mexico Small Flag Mexico

Government prosecuting bodies are obliged to investigate all bribery allegations they receive. The Federal Government has implemented a specific complaint and report system (the Integral System for Citizen Claims and Reports) by means of which any person that has been involved in, has suffered, or has knowledge of a bribery act at a federal level, may file a complaint before the competent authority; all the claims filed trough said system must be investigated. According to data gathered by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) as of 2014, 10,047 public officials were sanctioned by Internal Control Bodies; 2,993 were charged with bribery sanctions; 406 public officials were sentenced (whether in an absolutory or condemnatory sense); and only 81 were imprisoned for such criminal offences.

Brazil Small Flag Brazil

Car Wash Probe has been considered by some as the biggest corruption scandal in history. Authorities are currently and constantly investigating, prosecuting and entering into Leniency Agreements with companies that have pleaded guilty. Investigations into allegations of bribery are part of the Brazilians routine since the outcome of the Car Wash Probe, in March 2014.

New Zealand Small Flag New Zealand

There are no up-to-date statistics in this area. New Zealand is a small country (c.4.6 million people) and has a reputation for a very low level of corruption. It is invariably ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. It follows that prosecutions in New Zealand for bribery are low. Having said that a 2016 OECD report suggested that there may be under-reporting of bribery in New Zealand. Particularly in relation to foreign bribery. A Deloitte survey of New Zealand business in 2017 also suggested that 1 in 5 large businesses in New Zealand had experienced one or more instances of domestic corruption within the prior 5 years.

Denmark Small Flag Denmark

Investigations into allegations of bribery are very few in Denmark and are rarely carried out in respect of Danish individuals or entities engaging in bribery abroad.

Romania Small Flag Romania

Considering the high number of cases investigating corruption offenses, as evidenced by the information given to the DNA activity reports, the prosecutor's office registered in 2018 a number of approximately 10,000 cases under investigation, of which just over a third (3,547) were resolved.

This aspect can be appreciated by a factor regarding the increased interest of the judicial bodies in combating the anti-corruption phenomenon, but also an element that attests to a high degree of familiarity and awareness of the amplitude of the phenomenon of corruption at national level.

It can also be envisaged, from this perspective, that in relation to the rest of the corruption offenses, the passive bribery has a share under 3% of the total of the crimes investigated.

Singapore Small Flag Singapore

Based on statistics from 2014 to 2018, the CPIB typically receives between 358 and 475 corruption-related complaints per year. Corruption cases registered for investigation by the CPIB were between 103 and 136 per year from 2014 to 2018.

Switzerland Small Flag Switzerland

While government investigations into allegations of bribery naturally number less than other higher volume white collar crimes such as fraud, they have increased in the recent years, mainly in the wake of large international bribery schemes such as the Odebrecht investigation.

Due to the low level of national bribery in Switzerland, investigations of purely domestic bribery is still rather rare, with the exceptional larger case occasionally making the headlines. The majority of bribery cases therefore involve international aspects, in line with the strong international focus of Switzerland's economy. Overall, however, the prosecution level is often still perceived as low.

It is noteworthy that many bribery related cases raise anti-money laundering issues, either in addition to the corruption related aspects, or as the main aspect of the case as far as Switzerland is concerned. The reason lies in Switzerland's strong finance industry that in some cases still attracts tainted funds, leading to related mutual legal assistance proceedings, including the confiscation of assets, and domestic proceedings for breach of the anti-money laundering laws. Unless the corruption in question was also committed in Switzerland, no proceedings would usually be opened for corruption in such cases.

United Kingdom Small Flag United Kingdom

The SFO is an active enforcement agency and there are at least 40 reported ongoing investigations and prosecutions under both the pre-Bribery Act corruption legislation and the Bribery Act itself. However, some of the SFO's caseload is not public. It claims to have around 60 live criminal cases at any given time. There have been four Deferred Prosecution Agreements since 2015 (see question below).

Canada Small Flag Canada

There have been limited convictions to date under the CFPOA, although generally-speaking Canada’s commitment to the CFPOA’s strict enforcement appears to be increasing though specific information about the number of investigations is not publicly available.

Portugal Small Flag Portugal

Statistics from the General Department of Justice Policy (DGPJ – Direção-Geral da Política de Justiça) indicate that from 2007 to 2016 there has been a 43.4% decrease in crimes of corruption registered by the investigative authorities.

Argentina Small Flag Argentina

After decades of weak enforcement of anticorruption laws, under Macri’s administration anticorruption enforcement increased. Government authorities have been relevant actors in the investigation of past corruption. In particular, the Financial Intelligence Unit (Argentine FIU, or “UIF”, for its acronym in Spanish), and the Anti-Corruption Office leaded several investigations against former government authorities for corruption and money laundering, and both act as a private prosecutor (“querellante”) in criminal proceedings against former public officials that were part of the Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez administrations (during 2003-2015).

Angola Small Flag Angola

In the past, there were no government authority investigations into allegations of bribery/corruption. Those investigations started only in 2017 with the election of a new President of Angola. Since then, almost every day, there are public officials investigated into allegations of corruption.

Updated: July 8, 2019