Overview of Anti-Bribery Regulations in the UAE

What is the governing legislation?

The UAE has implemented Federal bribery and anti-corruption legislation and, in addition, some of the Emirates within the UAE also have their own bribery and anti-corruption legislation.  On the Federal level, the following legislation deals with bribery and corruption:

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

Please note that the DESC (as referred to in the Anti-Money Laundering section above) also has oversight and regulatory powers in respect of bribery and corruption.

What are the offences?

The Penal Code treats differently the bribery of public officials and the bribery of commercial directors. The Penal Code gives a definition of who constitutes a public official and the defined term has been found previously to include employees of the companies which are owned or controlled by the state.

The Penal Code criminalises the actions of the offeror, recipient and facilitator of bribes to “public officials”. A bribe is described as “a donation or advantage of any kind or promise or anything of the like in order to commit or omit an act in violation of the duties of [the public official’s] function” or “in order to commit or omit an act which is not part of [the public official’s] function.”  It is also an offence for a person who is not a public official, but has the ability to influence a public officer, to demand a benefit in return for his influence.

The Human Resources Law governs federal public service employment.  It prohibits public service employees from accepting, requesting or offering bribes. 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.

In the commercial sector, it is an offence for any member of the board of directors, manager or employee of a company to demand or accept a bribe. Unlike the bribing of a public official, the actions of the briber in the commercial sector are not criminalised by the Penal Code. It is, however, likely that the actions of the briber in the commercial sector will fall within the definition of a money laundering offence under the Law on Criminalization of Money Laundering.

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 or facilitating 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, subject to a de minimis amount of AED 1,000.

The offence of influencing a public official will result in a fine of not more than AED 10,000 and imprisonment of up to 1 year.

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