On 1 January 2013, a new anti-corruption law will enter into force in Austria. The amendment's key points are as follows:

1. Long-arm jurisdiction for offences committed abroad

According to the new regulations, an Austrian citizen or company can be prosecuted if the offence was committed abroad. This is independent of whether the behaviour constitutes a crime in the respective country. The Public Prosecutor can therefore indict, for example, the Austrian manager of a Romanian company for bribery, irrespective of Romanian anti-bribery regulations.

2. Higher punishment for bribery of public officials

The punishment will also be raised considerably: from 1 January 2013 onwards, the punishment for active and passive bribing organs and employees of companies close to the state will amount to ten years imprisonment instead of three.

3. Expanded definition of a public official

As of 1 January 2013, delegates of the National and Federal Council, members of the local council and employees of companies close to the state will no longer be excluded from the definition of who constitutes a public official. Anyone who works for a company owned indirectly or immediately by the state, province or municipality or a foreign body politic with at least 50% or more of its capital, is such an official. Such companies include, amongst others, ASFINAG, Flughafen Wien AG or Wiener Linien.

4. Small benefits for public officials allowed

The granting of an "improper benefit" to a public official for the dutiful performance of their office responsibilities is an offence if it aims at influencing the official's activity. If you want to grant a public official a benefit in the context of a professional relationship, this benefit must not exceed a value of EUR 100. This sum is thus considered a minor value in Austria. Gifts on private occasions or anniversary presents may always be accepted by officials. Small items such as promotional giveaways are customary. Flowers, the buffet after a presentation, sweets or coffee as an expression of gratitude, drinks or a small lunch are also permitted. However, any kind of tip, a golden or extravagant ball pen, or expensive wine are still prohibited gifts for public officials.

If the value of an invitation to an event exceeds EUR 100, an official or factually justified interest for the public official's participation must clearly exist. For instance, the participation may serve representational or marketing purposes. The main focus of the event should therefore be on information and communication.

5. Bribery in the private sector will be punished more severely

With the amendment's entry into force, action against bribery in the private sector can also be taken by the police and the public prosecutor's office. The offence will no longer be subject to private criminal action, where the plaintiff had to prosecute the crime and provide evidence for it.

Moreover, the minimum limit of ca. EUR 100 will be dropped. If an employee of a private company acts against his or her duties, the act already constitutes a crime from a value of EUR 50 onwards. Employees are acting against their duties if they contravene legal precepts or prohibitions, company guidelines or individual instructions. The criminal sanction of six months will be raised to up to three years, if a benefit exceeds EUR 50,000.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.