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Anti-Bribery and Corruption: UAE

In the UAE, the following legislation deals with bribery and corruption on the federal level:

•  The Penal Code (Federal Law No. 3 of 1987, as amended);

•  The Law on Criminalization of Money Laundering (Federal Law No. 4 of 2002); and

•  The Human Resources in the Federal Government Law (Federal Law No. 11 of 2008).

There are also laws issued by individual emirates relevant to anti-bribery compliance matters. 

What are the offences?

The Penal Code criminalises giving and receiving bribes in both public and private sectors.

Definition of a “public official” under the Penal Code is wide and it includes all employees (managers, chairmen, members of the board etc) working in companies partially or wholly owned by the general government or the local governments.

The UAE Penal Code is one of the first pieces of legislation in the region to extend the application of the bribery offences to foreign public officials and employees of international organisations.  A foreign public official is defined in Article 6(bis)(1) as: “any person who occupies a legislative, executive, administrative or judicial position in another country, whether permanent or temporary, and whether he is elected or appointed, with or without salary, an any person entrusted with public service functions.”  This new provision works alongside new Article 230(bis) of the Penal Code which expands the territorial effect of the Penal Code to bribery crimes committed “outside the State, if the perpetrator or the victim is a national of the country or if it is committed by an employee of the private or public sector of the state or if it affects a public property.“ 

The Human Resources Law governs federal public service employment.  It prohibits public service employees from accepting, requesting or offering bribes including accepting anything of value that would “accelerate any work that the employee is required by his work to do”, which would include prohibition on facilitation payments. It also prohibits any government employees from accepting any gifts unless they are symbolic/ advertising or promotional gifts and bear the name and logo of the presenting party.

What are the exceptions/defences?

The offeror or facilitator of the bribe can escape punishment if they inform the authorities about the crime and confess before the case proceeds to court. If the confession is made after the case proceeds to court, then the confession will be considered as an attenuating excuse.

What are the sanctions?

The penalty for offering, giving, facilitating or receiving a bribe is imprisonment and the term of imprisonment will depend on the nature of the crime; the maximum term being 10 years. In addition a fine will be applied in the amount equivalent to the solicited or accepted amount, but not less than AED 5,000 (about USD 1,360). The Penal Code also provides for criminal liability in the form of fines of up to AED 500,000 (about USD 135,870) for private legal entities for crimes committed by their representatives, directors or agents acting in favor of or behalf of these entities. The time bar in relation to all criminal or civil actions for bribery offences has recently been removed by the legislator.