Comparative Guides
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Results: 4 Answers
Anti-Corruption & Bribery
5.
Enforcement
5.1
Can companies that voluntarily report anti-corruption violations or cooperate with investigations benefit from leniency in your jurisdiction?
 
Belgium
As a matter of principle, reporting oneself or someone else to the authorities has no automatic impact on the penalty applied by a court down the road. There is no legal provision that specifically provides for leniency as a result of self-reporting to, or cooperation with, the authorities in corruption cases. However, the courts may take any factor they consider relevant into consideration to mitigate the sentence they impose on the defendant. Hence, although not guaranteed, courts may be inclined in practice to exercise greater leniency with cooperative and constructive defendants.

For more information about this answer please contact: Nanyi Kaluma from Allen & Overy
5.2
Can the existence of an anti-corruption compliance programme constitute a defence to charges of anti-corruption violations?
 
Belgium
See question 4.1 – demonstrating that an anti-corruption compliance programme is in place may support the argument that a company had no criminal intent to engage in a corruption scheme.

For more information about this answer please contact: Nanyi Kaluma from Allen & Overy
5.3
What other defences are available to companies charged with anti-corruption violations?
 
Belgium
At trial, the defence will generally argue that the constitutive elements of the criminal offence are not proven.

In addition, as a second line of defence, any circumstance of fact may be raised by a defendant to put forward mitigating factors, such as a clean criminal record, a sound compliance programme and a constructive approach (including self-reporting or cooperation). Exonerating circumstances, such as bona fide ignorance or error, are rarely accepted by the courts.

For more information about this answer please contact: Nanyi Kaluma from Allen & Overy
5.4
Can companies negotiate a pre-trial settlement through plea bargaining, settlement agreements or similar?
 
Belgium
Yes – both companies and individuals can negotiate and enter into a (pre-)trial plea bargaining or criminal settlement further to corruption charges.

However, the plea bargaining regime is little in practice although it has been an established feature of criminal procedure since 2016. This is due to a lack of interest of prosecutors in this mechanism, among other things.

Please see question 6 for further developments regarding (pre-)trial criminal settlements.

For more information about this answer please contact: Nanyi Kaluma from Allen & Overy
5.5
What penalties can be imposed for violations of the anti-corruption legislation? Can non-exhaustive penalties be imposed for such violations (eg, exclusion from public procurement, exclusion from entitlement to public benefits or aid, disqualification from the practice of certain commercial activities, judicial winding up)?
 
Belgium
In case of conviction for public corruption:

  • individuals: imprisonment for between six months and 15 years and a fine of €800 to €800,000;
  • companies: a fine of €24,000 to €1.6 million.

Where the corrupt person is a foreign public official or a member of an international public organisation, the above fines can be multiplied by five, and can hence reach up to €4 million for individuals and €8 million for companies.

In case of conviction for private corruption:

  • individuals: imprisonment for between six months and three years and a fine of €800 to €400,000; and
  • companies: a fine of €24,000 to €800,000.

The conviction of an offender for private or public corruption also includes:

  • the confiscation (forfeiture) of the property constituting the object or instrumentalities of the offence where this belongs to the convicted person (mandatory);
  • the product of the offence (mandatory); and
  • the direct or indirect (gross) proceeds derived from the offence (discretionary).

In addition, the court may order ancillary penalties in case of conviction for public or private corruption, including:

  • an exclusion from public procurement (which is mandatory and applies for a period of five years);
  • a prohibition against exercising certain functions, activities or professions (eg, director of a company for three to 10 years);
  • revocation of rights (eg, the right to hold a public function or eligibility for five to 10 years); and/or
  • winding up of the company, but only where the company was purposely created to carry out the corruption offences or where its object was purposely diverted to carry out such offences.
For more information about this answer please contact: Nanyi Kaluma from Allen & Overy
5.6
What is the statute of limitations to prosecute anti-corruption violations in your jurisdiction?
 
Belgium
The statute of limitations generally applicable to corruption cases is five years. However, due to suspension and interruption rules, the limitation period can be extended in practice to a maximum of 10 years (although exceptions may apply).

The limitation period starts to run after the criminal conduct has ended. In cases where criminal conduct involves corruption acts and other criminal offences united by the same criminal intent, the case will be time barred when the limitation period relating to the last criminal act expires. This can result in certain corruption cases not being time barred before much longer than five or 10 years after the corruption acts. For instance, where corruption acts are mingled with acts of forgery and use of forged documents, the limitation period applicable to the criminal conduct as a whole starts to run only when the forged documents (eg, contracts, invoices, financial statements) cease to be used.

For more information about this answer please contact: Nanyi Kaluma from Allen & Overy