Al Mazmy



The UAE government has made a consistent and persistent effort to concentrate on eradicating corruption at all levels of government due to the political and economic effects of corruption, both locally and globally. Although government corruption has received the majority of the authorities’ attention, it is crucial to remember that the UAE Penal Code also contains rules that apply to the private sector.

As a result of this, businesses and people are paying much greater attention to the topic of corruption and the enforcement of the Penal Code by the authorities as they try to figure out what steps, if any, they may take to guarantee that their company operation is compatible with the Penal Code.

The Penal Code is the primary federal statute that governs anti-bribery actions in the UAE, as mentioned above. Employees of both the public and private sectors may not be bribed or try to be bribed, according to prohibitions included in Articles 234 to 239 of the Code. According to the provisions of the Code, anything that confers a benefit on a public or private sector employee, as the case may be, with the goal to persuade that person to behave contrary to the obligations imposed by his or her role, or to conduct or refrain from doing an act, would be considered bribery.

(a) Public Sector

The relevant parties who would be susceptible to prosecution under the Code for acts of bribery perpetrated by individuals in the context of the public sector include those who accept, offer, or facilitate a bribe, regardless of whether they receive any direct benefit from doing so.

The Code stipulates that a “public official”, who takes a bribe for himself or another person in return for performing or refraining from performing an act that is contrary to the responsibilities of his function or that is not a part of those duties is the beneficiary of a bribe in the public sector. Employees working in government ministries and departments, heads of legislative, advisory, and municipal councils, members of boards of directors, managers, and all other personnel employed by public enterprises and organizations are all included in this category. However, the Dubai Court of Appeal recently construed the term “public official” to encompass workers at state-owned or semi-state-owned private sector companies that accept bribes.

It is noteworthy that “public officers” who receive a bribe but do not intend to perform or omit the conduct demanded of them by the person offering the bribe would nevertheless be guilty of the offense and liable to punishment under the Code. Thereby, it would not be necessary to demonstrate that a “public officer” intended to do or not do the act expected of him in exchange for the Bribe; rather, the simple receipt of a Bribe by that person would be sufficient justification for prosecution of that person.

Any “public officer”, who is found guilty of accepting a bribe will be punished with a fine equal to the benefit they took (as long as the fine is at least AED 1,000), the confiscation of the actual benefit they took, and, depending on the specifics of each case, a sentence of five to ten years in prison. Moreover, anyone found guilty of receiving a bribe in return for using their influence over a “public officer” face a fine of up to AED 10,000 and a maximum one-year sentence in jail.

A person who offers a “public official” or someone in a position to influence a “public officer”, a bribe risk imprisonment for up to five years, a fine equal to the benefit offered as a bribe (provided the fine is not less than AED 1,000), and the actual advantage offered will be confiscated. Anybody who facilitates the exchange of a bribe between the offeror and the recipient would also face similar sanctions.

Furthermore, in accordance with Article 237 of the Code, proposing a bribe to a “public official” or to a person who can influence a “public officer” is unlawful as well regardless of whether the intended receiver accepts the bribe or not.

(b) Private Sector

According to Article 236 of the Code, only the person who accepts a Bribe in exchange for performing or refraining from performing an act that is contrary to the obligations of his position would be guilty of a violation of the Code. This provision relates to acts of bribery committed by individuals in the context of the private sector. In this case, the Code defines the beneficiary as any management or employee of any private firm, institution, cooperative organization, or public benefit association, as well as any member of the board of directors of any such entity.

Those who take bribes in the private sector shall also face a fine equal to the advantage they received (as long as the fine is at least AED 1,000), the confiscation of the real benefit received, and a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Notwithstanding the fact that the UAE authorities have not yet taken any concrete actions to curb corrupt activities in the private sector, the Code does provide them the authority to punish those who are thought to be involved in such acts. As a result, when they work to eliminate corruption both at the government level and in the public sector, the authorities may eventually change their approach. In doing so, it is conceivable that the authorities may in the future broaden the provisions and application of Article 236 of the Code to make it easier to prosecute bribery in the private sector and make the person who offers the bribe and the person who facilitates it accountable for their actions.

For more information and clarification, please feel free to contact us. Our team of legal experts at Yaqoub Almaazmi Advocates and Legal Consultants and help guide you further.


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