Anti-corruption legislation in Ireland generally prohibits bribery of both public officials and private individuals committed in Ireland and, in certain circumstances (ie, where the subject has a connection with Ireland), committed abroad.
The principal statutory source of bribery law in Ireland is the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018 (the Corruption Offences Act). The legislation, which was commenced on 30 July 2018, repealed the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889 and the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1906-2010, and modernises and consolidates the Irish law in this area.
The Corruption Offences Act includes six ‘Corruption Offences’, given below.
Active and passive corruption
The first offence is that of active and passive corruption. Essentially, it is an offence under the Corruption Offences Act for any person to corruptly give to, or accept from a person, a ‘gift, consideration or advantage’ as an inducement to, reward for, or on account of any person doing an act in relation to his or her office, employment, position or business. Under the Corruption Offences Act ‘corruptly’ is defined widely and includes acting with an improper purpose personally or by influencing another person, whether by means of making a false or misleading statement, by means of withholding, concealing, altering or destroying a document or other information, or by other means.
Active and passive trading in influence
It is an offence under the Corruption Offences Act for any person to corruptly give or accept a gift, consideration or advantage to induce another person to exert improper influence over an act of an official in relation to that official’s office, employment, position or business. This offence was introduced under the Corruption Offences Act following recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal.
Corruption in relation to office, employment, position or business
It is an offence for an Irish Official (including a wide spectrum from a member of parliament to any other person employed by or acting for the state or any public body) to do any act or use any confidential information in relation to his or her office to corruptly obtain a gift, consideration or advantage.
Giving a gift, consideration or advantage that may be used to facilitate offence under the Corruption Offences Act
It is an offence under the Corruption Offences Act to give a gift where one knows or ought reasonably to know that it will be used to facilitate the commission of an offence under the Corruption Offences Act.
Creating or using a false document
It is an offence under the Corruption Offences Act to create or use a false document with the intention of corruptly influencing another person to do an act in relation to his or her office, employment, position or business.
It is an offence under the Corruption Offences Act to corruptly threaten harm to another, with the intention of corruptly influencing another person to do an act in relation to his or her office, employment, position or business
One of the most important developments is the introduction of a strict liability offence for corporates, pursuant to which a corporate body may be held liable for the corrupt actions committed for its benefit by any director, manager, secretary, employee, agent or subsidiary under section 18 of the Corruption Offences Act. The single defence to this offence for corporates is demonstrating that the company took ‘all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence’ to avoid the commission of the corruption offence by its director, manager, secretary, employee, agent or subsidiary.
At common law, the offences of bribery and attempted bribery are punishable by imprisonment or a fine, or both. It is an offence to offer an undue reward to, or receive an undue reward from, a public official to influence that person in the exercise of his or her duties in that office contrary to the rules of honesty and integrity.
The common law bribery and attempted bribery offences have not been judicially considered in recent times and prosecuting authorities mainly rely on the statutory law offences.
The Ethics Act
The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 (as amended) (the Ethics Act) places obligations on Irish public office holders and other senior members of the Irish public service, to report and surrender gifts and payments above €650. The Ethics Act aims to combat corruption in office by requiring public declarations of financial interests, as well as prohibiting the receipt of gifts, whether or not they are given by the donor with the intention of procuring a certain result or course of action.
Presumptions of corruption
Various presumptions of corruption arise under the Corruption Offences Act and the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009. These include where:
- a payment was made by a person, or agent of a person, who is seeking to obtain a contract from a government minister or a public body;
- an undisclosed political donation above a certain threshold is made to certain specified persons and the donor had an interest in the donee carrying out or refraining from doing any act related to their office or position;
- a public official is suspected of committing an offence under the Corruption Offences Act and the person who gave the gift or advantage had an interest in the public official carrying out a function relating to his or her position as a public official. A list of functions of public officials is provided in the Corruption Offences Act and includes granting or refusing a licence, permit, warrant or authorisation and making a decision relating to a contract, tender, grant or loan of any kind; or
- a gift, consideration or advantage is conferred upon a person performing functions for the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) by a person whose debts have been assumed by NAMA.
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