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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bribery, a form of pecuniary corruption, is an act implying money or gift given that alters the behavior of the recipient. Bribery constitutes a crime and is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in discharge of a public or legal duty. The bribe is the gift bestowed to influence the recipient's conduct. It may be any money, good, right in action, property, preferment, privilege, emolument, object of value, advantage, or merely a promise or undertaking to induce or influence the action, vote, or influence of a person in an official or public capacity.

One must be careful of differing social and cultural norms when examining bribery. Expectations of when a monetary transaction is appropriate can differ from place to place. Political campaign contributions in the form of cash, for example, are considered criminal acts of bribery in some countries, while in the United States they are legal. Tipping, for example, is considered bribery in some societies, while in others the two concepts may not be interchangeable. In some Spanish-speaking countries, bribes are referred to as "mordida" (literally, "bite"); in Arab countries they are Backshish or Bakshish. However, Bakshish is more akin to tipping and is socially permissible. French-speaking countries often use the expressions "dessous-de-table" ("under-the-table" commissions), "pot-de-vin" (litterally, "wine-pot"), or "commission occulte" ("secret commission" or "kickback"). While the last two expressions contain inherently a negative connotation, the expression "dessous-de-table" can be often understood as a commonly accepted business practice (for instance, on the occasion of a real estate transaction before the notary, a partial payment made between the buyer and seller; needless to say, this is a good way to launder money). In German the common term is Schmiergeld ("greasing money"). In certain Scandinavian countries, the expression "mutbrot" (litterally, "butter-bread") is quite commonly used and does not have the same negative connotation as "bribe", even though according to the Transparency International corruption perception index, corruption would be rare in that part of the world.

The offence may be divided into two great classes: the one, where a person invested with power is induced by payment to use it unjustly; the other, where power is obtained by purchasing the suffrages of those who can impart it. Likewise, the briber might hold a powerful role and control the transaction; or in other cases, a bribe may be effectively extracted from the person paying it, although this is better known as extortion.

The forms that bribery take are numerous. For example, a motorist might bribe a police officer not to issue a ticket for speeding, a citizen seeking paperwork or utility line connections might bribe a functionary for faster service. In Eugene, Oregon, bribery is an important aspect of the local SLUG Queen pageant that sets it apart from other pageants. The Slug Queens set the rare example of creating an environment where bribery is both accepted and encouraged. The moment a new queen is crowned, the old queens, who are the judges of the pageant, are open to bribery.

Bribery may also take the form of a secret commission, a profit made by an agent, in the course of his employment, without the knowledge of his principal. Euphemisms abound for this (commission, sweetener, back-kick etc.) Bribers and recipients of bribery are likewise numerous although bribers have one common denominator and that is the financial ability to bribe.

Bribery around the world is estimated at about $1 trillion (£494bn).[1]

As indicated on the pages devoted to political corruption, efforts have been made in recent years by the international community to encourage countries to dissociate and incriminate as separate offences, active and passive bribery. From a legal point of view, active bribery can be defined for instance as the promising, offering or giving by any person, directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage [to any public official], for himself or herself or for anyone else, for him or her to act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her functions. (article 2 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 173) of the Council of Europe). Passive bribery can be defined as the request or receipt [by any public official], directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage, for himself or herself or for anyone else, or the acceptance of an offer or a promise of such an advantage, to act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her functions (article 3 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 173)).

The reason for this dissociation is to make the early steps (offering, promising, requesting an advantage) of a corrupt deal already an offence and, thus, to give a clear signal (from a criminal policy point of view) that bribery is not acceptable. Besides, such a dissociation makes the prosecution of bribery offences easier since it can be very difficult to prove that two parties (the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker) have formally agreed upon a corrupt deal. Besides, there is often no such formal deal but only a mutual understanding, for instance when it is common knowledge in a municipality that to obtain a building permit one has to pay a "fee" to the decision maker to obtain a favourable decision.



A grey area may exist when payments to smooth transactions are made. United States law is particularly strict in limiting the ability of businesses to pay for the awarding of contracts by foreign governments; however, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act contains an exception for "grease payments"; very basically, this allows payments to officials in order to obtain the performance of ministerial acts which they are legally required to do, but may delay in the absence of such payment. In some countries, this practice is the norm, often resulting from a developing nation not having the tax structure to pay civil servants an adequate salary. Nevertheless, most economists regard bribery as a bad thing because it encourages rent seeking behaviour. A state where bribery has become a way of life is a kleptocracy.

Tax treatment of Bribe

The tax status of bribes is an issue for governments since the bribery of government officials impedes the democratic process and may interfere with good government. In some countries, such bribes are considered tax-deductible payments. However, in 1996, in an effort to discourage bribery, the OECD Council recommended to that member countries cease to allow the tax-deductibility of bribes to foreign officials. This was followed by the signing of the Anti-Bribery Convention. Since that time, the majority of the OECD countries which are signatories of the convention have revised their tax policies according to this recommendation and some have extended the measures to bribes paid to any official, sending the message that bribery will no longer be tolerated in the operations of the government.[2]


Pharmaceutical corporations may seek to reward doctors for heavy prescription of their drugs through gifts. The American Medical Association has published ethical guidelines for gifts from industry which include the tenet that physicians should not accept gifts if they are given in relation to the physician’s prescribing practices.[1] Doubtful cases include grants for traveling to medical conventions that double as tourist trips.

Dentists often receive samples of home dental care products such as toothpaste, which are of negligible value; somewhat ironically, dentists in a television commercial will often state that they get these samples but pay to use the sponsor's product.

In countries offering state-subsidized or nationally funded healthcare where medical professionals are underpaid, patients may use bribery to solicit the standard expected level of medical care. For example, in many formerly Communist countries from what used to be the Eastern Block it may be customary to offer expensive gifts to doctors and nurses for the delivery of service at any level of medical care in the non-private health sector.[3][4]


Politicians receive campaign contributions and other payoffs from powerful corporations or individuals when making choices in the interests of those parties, or in anticipation of favorable policy. However, such a relationship does not meet the legal standards for bribery without evidence of a quid pro quo. See also influence peddling and political corruption.


A campaign to prevent bribes in Zambia.

Employees, managers, or salespeople of a business may offer money or gifts to a potential client in exchange for business. For instance, the service company Aramark was recently accused of offering gifts to an assistant warden in the New Mexico Prison System in exchange for a contract allowing Aramark to provide the food services in the state's prisons.

More recently, in 2006 German prosecutors conducted a wide-ranging investigation of Siemens AG to determine if Siemens employees paid bribes in exchange for business.

In some cases where the system of law is not well implemented, bribes may be a way for companies to continue their businesses. In the case, for example where custom officials harass a certain firm or production plant, officially stating to check for irregularities, may halt production and stall other normal activities of a firm. The disruption may cause losses to the firm that exceed the amount of money to pay off the official. Bribing the officials is a common way to deal with this issue in countries where there exists no firm system of reporting these semi-illegal activities. A third party, known as a White Glove, may be involved to act as a clean middleman.

Specialists consultancies have been set up to help multinational companies and SMEs, with a commitment to anti-corruption, to trade more ethically and benefit from compliance with the law.

Sport corruption

Referees, and scoring judges may be offered money, gifts, or other compensation to guarantee a specific outcome in an athletic or other sport competition. A well-known example of this manner of bribery in sport would be the 2002 Olympic Winter Games figure skating scandal, where the French judge in the pairs competition voted for the Russian skaters in order to secure an advantage for the French skaters in the ice dancing competition.

Additionally, bribes may be offered by cities in order to secure athletic franchises, or even competitions, as happened with the 2002 Winter Olympics. It is common practice for cities to "bid" against each other with stadiums, tax benefits, and licensing deals to secure or keep professional sports franchises.

Athletes themselves can be paid to under-perform, generally so that a gambler or gambling syndicate can secure a winning bet. A classic example of this is the 1919 World Series, better known as the Black Sox Scandal.

Finally, in some sports, elements of the game may be tampered with – the classic example being from horse racing, where a groom or other person with access to the horses before the race may be bribed to over-feed an animal, or even administer a sedative or amphetamine (known as "horse doping" in order to make a horse faster or slower to respectively increase or reduce a horse's chances of winning). This is another type of bribery done for financial gain through gambling – bet against a clear favorite, and ensure that the favorite has an "off day", or attempt to "hop up" a long shot in an attempt to collect big winnings by betting on the heavy odds against it.

See also


  1. ^ African corruption 'on the wane', 10 July 2007, BBC News
  2. ^ “Tax Treatment of Bribes: About”, OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration,, 17 July 2007 <,3347,en_2649_34551_1_1_1_1_1,00.html>.
  3. ^ Lewis, Mauree. (2000). Who is paying for healthcare in Eastern Europe and Central Asia? World Bank Publications.
  4. ^ Bribes for basic care in Romania. The Guardian Weekly (March 26th 2008).

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BRIBERY (from the O. Fr. briberie, begging or vagrancy, bribe, Mid. Lat. briba, signifying a piece of bread given to beggars; the Eng. "bribe" has passed through the meanings of alms, blackmail and extortion, to gifts received or given in order to influence corruptly). The public offence of bribery may be defined as the offering or giving of payment in some shape or form that it may be a motive in the performance of functions for which the proper motive ought to be a conscientious sense of duty. When this is superseded by the sordid impulses created by the bribe, a person is said to be corrupted, and thus corruption is a term sometimes held equivalent to bribery. The offence may be divided into two great classes - the one where a person invested with power is induced by payment to use it unjustly; the other, where power is obtained by purchasing the suffrages of those who can impart it. It is a natural propensity, removable only by civilization or some powerful counteracting influence, to feel that every element of power is to be employed as much as possible for the owner's own behoof, and that its benefits should be conferred not on those who best deserve them, but on those who will pay most for them. Hence judicial corruption is an inveterate vice of imperfect civilization. There is, perhaps no other crime on which the force of law, if unaided by public opinion and morals, can have so little influence; for in other crimes, such as violence or fraud, there is generally some person immediately injured by the act, who can give his aid in the detection of the offender, but in the perpetration of the offence of bribery all the immediate parties obtain what they desire, and are satisfied.

The purification of the bench from judicial bribery has been gradual in most of the European countries. In France it received an impulse in the 16th century from the high-minded chancellor, Michel de L'HOpital. In England judicial corruption has been a crime of remarkable rarity. Indeed, with the exception of a statute of 1384 (repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1881) there has been no legislation relating to judicial bribery. The earliest recorded case was that of Sir William Thorpe, who in 1351 was fined and removed from office for accepting bribes. Other celebrated cases were those of Michael de la Pole, chancellor of England, in 1387; Lord Chancellor Bacon in 1621; Lionel Cranfield, earl of Middlesex, in 1624; and Sir Thomas Parker, 1st earl of Macclesfield, in 1725. In Scotland for some years after the Revolution the bench was not without a suspicion of interested partiality; but since the beginning of the 19th century, at least, there has been in all parts of the empire a perfect reliance on its purity. The same may be said of the higher class of ministerial officers. There is no doubt that in the period from the Revolution to the end of Queen Anne's reign, when a speaker of the House of Commons was expelled for bribery, and the great Marlborough could not clear his-character from pecuniary dishonesty, there was much corruption in the highest official quarters. The level of the offence of official bribery has gradually descended, until it has become an extremely rare thing for the humbler officers connected with the revenue to be charged with it. It has had a more lingering existence with those who,. because their power is more of a constitutional than an official character, have been deemed less responsible to the public. During Walpole's administration there is no doubt that members of parliament were paid in cash for votes; and the memorable saying, that every man has his price, has been preserved as characteristic indication of his method of government. One of the forms in which administrative corruption is most difficult of eradication is the appointment to office. It is sometimes maintained that the purity which characterizes the administration of justice is here unattainable, because in giving a judgment there is but one form in which it can be justly given, but when an office has to be filled many people may be equally fitted for it, and personal motives must influence a choice. It very rarely happens, however, that direct bribery is supposed to influence such appointments. It does not appear that bribery was conspicuous in England until, in the early part of the 18th century, constituencies had thrown off the feudal dependence which lingered among them; and, indeed, it is often said, that bribery is essentially the defect of a free people, since it is the sale of that which is taken from others without payment.

In English law bribery of a privy councillor or a juryman (see Embracery) is punishable as a misdemeanour, as is the taking of a bribe by any judicial or ministerial officer. The buying and selling of public offices is also regarded at common law as a form of bribery. By the Customs Consolidation Act 1876, any officer in the customs service is liable to instant dismissal and a penalty of 500 for taking a bribe, and any person offering or promising a bribe or reward to an officer to neglect his duty or conceal or connive at any act by which the customs may be evaded shall forfeit the sum of £200. Under the Inland Revenue Regulations Act 1890, the bribery of commissioners, collectors, officers or other persons employed in relation to the Inland Revenue involves a fine of £500. The Merchant Shipping Act 1894, ss. 112 and 398, makes provision for certain offences in the nature of bribery. Bribery is, by the Extradition Act 1906, an extraditable offence. Administrative corruption was dealt with in the Public Bodies' Corrupt Practices Act 1889. The public bodies concerned are county councils, town or borough councils, boards, commissioners, select vestries and other bodies having local government, public health or poor law powers, and having for those purposes to administer rates raised under public general acts. The giving or receiving, promising, offering, soliciting or agreeing to receive any gift, fee, loan or advantage by any person as an inducement for any act or forbearance by a member, officer or servant of a public body in regard to the affairs of that body is made a misdemeanour in England and Ireland and a crime and offence in Scotland. Prosecution under the act requires the consent of the attorneyor solicitor-general in England or Ireland and of the lord advocate in Scotland. Conviction renders liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding two years, and to a fine not exceeding £500, in addition to or in lieu of imprisonment. The offender may also be ordered to pay to the public body concerned any bribe received by him; he may be adjudged incapable for seven years of holding public office, i.e. the position of member, officer or servant of a public body; and if already an officer or servant, besides forfeiting his place, he is liable at the discretion of the court to forfeit his right to compensation or pension. On a second conviction he may be adjudged forever incapable of holding public office, and for seven years incapable of being registered or of voting as a parliamentary elector, or as an elector of members of a public body. An offence under the act may be prosecuted and punished under any other act applicable thereto, or at common law; but no person is to be punished twice for the same offence. Bribery at political elections was at common law punishable by indictment or information, but numerous statutes have been passed dealing with it as a "corrupt practice." In this sense, the word is elastic in meaning and may embrace any method of corruptly influencing another for the purpose of securing his vote (see Corrupt Practices). Bribery at elections of fellows, scholars, officers and other persons in colleges, cathedral and collegiate churches, hospitals and other societies was prohibited in1588-1589 by statute (31 Eliz. c. 6). If a member receives any money, fee, reward or other profit for giving his vote in favour of any candidate, he forfeits his own place; if for any such consideration he resigns to make room for a candidate, he forfeits double the amount of the bribe, and the candidate by or on whose behalf a bribe is given or promised is incapable of being elected on that occasion. The act is to be read at every election of fellows, &c., under a penalty of £40 in case of default. By the same act any person for corrupt consideration presenting, instituting or inducting to an ecclesiastical benefice or dignity forfeits two years' value of the benefice or dignity; the corrupt presentation is void, and the right to present lapses for that turn to the crown, and the corrupt presentee is disabled from thereafter holding the same benefice or dignity; a corrupt institution or induction is void, and the patron may present. For a corrupt resignation or exchange of a benefice the giver and taker of a bribe forfeit each double the amount of the bribe. Any person corruptly procuring the ordaining of ministers or granting of licenses to preach forfeits £40, and the person so ordained forfeits £ 10 and for seven years is incapacitated from holding any ecclesiastical benefice or promotion.

In the United States the offence of bribery is very severely dealt with. In many states, bribery or the attempt to bribe is made a felony, and is punishable with varying terms of imprisonment, in some jurisdictions it may be with a period not exceeding ten years. The offence of bribery at elections is dealt with on much the same lines as in England, voiding the election and disqualifying the offender from holding any office.

Bribery may also take the form of a secret commission (q.v.), a profit made by an agent, in the course of his employment, without the knowledge of his principal.

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Simple English

Bribery means offering something (e.g. money) to a person in return for some favour which is bad in some way.

The money that is offered is called a bribe and the verb is to bribe.

It is sometimes difficult to decide whether something is a bribe or just a reward. If a father pays his son for washing the car, this is just a reward or payment. But if a parent pays a child for eating up its dinner this might be thought of as a bribe, because most people would think this was not right.

Bribery is usually about more serious cases in which a person offers money so that he does not get into trouble. If a motorist is caught speeding by a policeman and he offers the policeman money or a bottle of vodka to persuade him not to fine him, this is bribery. If someone wants to take something into a country that they are not allowed to take in (or that they would have to pay tax on) they might offer the customs officer a bribe to persuade him to let them through.

Examples such as these are clearly illegal (against the law) and would almost never happen in many Western countries. However in some parts of the world bribery is normal and it is difficult to do anything without offering bribes.

Bribery in some form is quite common in business in many parts of the world. Giving business people presents in the hope that they will want to do business with you may just seem like good manners at times, but in some cases it may seem more like bribery.

People who are found to be taking bribes can sometimes lose their jobs. In some cases (like the case of the motorist) bribery is against the law.

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