Corruption can occur in many different ways, for example, it can be active or passive, public or private. In all cases, it represents conduct that is liable to severe criminal prosecution, as it is considered a serious act. Maître Antoine Beraud, a lawyer at the Marseille Bar, explains in this article the characteristics of corruption and the penalties incurred.
Definition of corruption
The Criminal Code defines corruption in Article 435-1 as the act of “soliciting or agreeing, without right, at any time, directly or indirectly, to offers, promises, gifts, presents or advantages of any kind, for oneself or for others, in order to perform or refrain from performing an act of one’s function, mission or mandate or facilitated by one’s function, mission or mandate”.
It is important to know that corruption is characterized by a double scope, as Maître Beraud explains to us: one is in fact in the presence of a corrupted person (who accepts, solicits or approves a gift) and a corrupter. The Penal Code (articles 435-1, 435-3, 445-1 and 445-2) thus distinguishes the action of the corrupter (active corruption) from that of the corrupted (passive corruption). There is a causal link between the action and the counterpart from which the bribed person will benefit.
The briber will pay an advantage to the corrupt in exchange for which the latter undertakes to perform an act that falls within his or her functions and prerogatives. Corruption takes the form of an agreement (the “corrupt pact”) between the two parties.
Who can be qualified as corrupt?
The Criminal Code defines three types of persons in the context of public corruption:
- Persons holding public authority: law enforcement agencies, military, prefects, …
- Persons in charge of a public service mission: clerks of notaries or bailiffs, administrators or legal representatives, …
- Persons entrusted with a public elective mandate: members of parliament, local elected representatives, …
Mr. Beraud specifies that if the corruption concerns magistrates, the penalty incurred is even greater because of the seriousness of the offence. Moreover, in this case, we are no longer talking about a simple offence but about a crime.
With regard to private corruption, corruption could concern all persons who had a managerial function or responsibilities in the context of their professional or moral activity. It can thus concern medicines, arbitrators as well as managers (of foundations, associations, NGOs…)…..
What are the penalties for corruption?
Maître Antoine Beraud reminds us that corruption is an act severely sanctioned by the Penal Code. Indeed, the law provides for a fine of up to one million euros as well as a 10-year prison sentence for both the bribe-taker and the corrupter.
The latter may also be subject to additional penalties. They may also be banned from holding public office or from exercising any other professional or social activity.