Turkey: Anti-corruption: Combatting Public Enemy Number One in Turkey

Last Updated: 25 October 2014
Article by Burcu Tuzcu Ersin, LL.M. and Bora İkiler, LL.M.

Beginning in the 1970s and really taking off after the end of Cold War, globalization, the increased number of economically liberalized markets, and the expanding volume of cross-border trading and commercial activities has led to corruption becoming a major national and international public issue.

Corruption is not a new phenomenon; instead it has been persistent for thousands of years. Books, stories and theatrical plays have been written on the subject. Yet, it is now under the spotlight like never before given the prevalence of corruption among some corporations both in developed and developing countries in the last few decades. And it's having a detrimental effect and significantly obstructing economic development.

The international sentiment and decisiveness on the matter has culminated in overarching international treaties recognized by many states. With the increased awareness on the subject and its adverse consequences in recent years, national legislative approaches against the subject have also become more rigid and comprehensive.

It has become apparent that corruption takes many different forms and patterns. Accordingly, the World Bank has settled on a straightforward definition, the abuse of public office for private gain.

This definition is concise and broad enough to include most forms of corruption. That said, bribery, the form of corruption that is most common in Turkey, can be regarded as a violation of core ethic principles, neglect of duty and misconduct, infraction and irregularity, favouritism and discrimination, mobbing and the use of public resources for personal benefits.

This article explores how bribery is regulated under Turkish laws and regulations as well as the international treaties, ratified by the Republic of Turkey.

Regulation of Bribery under Turkish laws

As the core legal instrument against corruption, Turkish Penal Code numbered 5237 (TPC) criminalizes bribery under Article 252. Accordingly, the legal definition of bribery reads as "securing an undue advantage to a public official or to another person indicated by the public official in order to perform or not to perform a task with regard to his duty." Article 252 criminalizes both bribe giving and taking and foresees identical legal remedies. The sanction against bribery is imprisonment from 4 years to 12 years.

Pursuant to Article 252/3, when the parties agree upon a bribe, the offence is deemed as completed. Thus, regardless of whether money actually changes hands, the mere existence of an agreement to pay a bribe is considered as sufficient to be sentenced.

Any intermediary who transmits a bribe offer, finalizes the bribery agreement or delivers the bribe will be punished as a perpetrator, regardless of whether that person is a public official.

If the public official receiving the bribe is a judge, a notary public or a sworn public accountant the punishment increases by one third up to one half of the length of the imprisonment penalty.

The scope of bribery also covers bribery actions. Regardless of being a public official, it covers representatives of (i) companies having a public entity status, (ii) companies established with the partnership of the public entities or the professional organizations having a public entity status, (iii) foundations operating within the public entities or the professional organizations having a public entity status, (iv) public benefit associations, (v) cooperatives, and (vi) publicly traded joint-stock companies engage in in criminal behaviour.

The enterprises which benefit from a bribe will also be punished with certain security measures such as invalidation of the license granted by a public authority and seizure of pecuniary benefits arising from or provided by the commitment of a bribery offense. Accordingly, TPC stipulates legal measures to be applied if an entity has secured an undue advantage from bribery and is involved in money laundering. The security measures involve cancellation of the license.

Furthermore, for regulated markets such as Capital Markets, Energy Markets, and Banking bribery has severe results. In this respect, the results are as follows;

  • Energy Market Regulatory Authority demands, as a prerequisite for a legal entity to obtain a license, that the shareholders of the legal entity who, directly or indirectly, has at least 10 percent of the shares not to be convicted for corruption offenses except for crimes committed by imprudence.
  • According to Capital Market Law No. 6362, the individuals who have been sentenced of crimes of corruption are not allowed to be the founding partners of intermediary institutions as well as legal entities having significant influence. Moreover, in cases where capital market institutions determined to be engaged in activities contrary to the legislation, The Capital Markets Board may restrict or temporarily suspend directly the institutions from their activities or cancel their licenses fully or as for certain capital market activities.
  • Banking Law No. 5411 envisages a similar requirement for the founders of banks, and the real person shareholders of the legal entity founders of banks with qualified shares are not allowed to be the founding partners in case of being sentenced to the corruption offenses.
  • Insurance Law No. 5684 and the Regulation on the Individual Pension Intermediaries dated August 29, 2009 and numbered 27334 require that the founders of companies of insurance, reinsurance and intermediaries should not have been convicted of infamous offences including corruption, even if they have benefitted from effective remorse, except for crimes committed by imprudence.

On a different note, Article 254 of the TPC provides a system called "effective remorse". Accordingly, an individual who gives or receives a bribe, but then informs the competent authorities regarding the issue at stake prior to the bribery being known by the authorities will not be punished. Nevertheless, it is set out in Article 254/4 that the "effective remorse" system shall not be applicable if one of the parties is a foreign public officer.

Regulation of Bribery under International Treaties ratified by the Republic of Turkey

Apart from TCP, bribery is also regulated in several international treaties to which the Republic of Turkey is a party. In this respect, by signing the international treaties, Turkey undertakes particular commitments to harmonize local laws with international treaties. Accordingly, Turkey's commitments under treaties that have been ratified and duly entered into force and the prospective indirect results arising from such commitments are analysed below.

Turkey, to comply with its obligations under the international treaties, has made amendments through various judicial reform packages in the relevant law that regulate bribery. Even though certain provisions are synchronized with the international treaties, there are also certain laws that have not yet been synchronized with the international treaties.

Accordingly, the above-mentioned international conventions to which Turkey is a party consist of;

  • the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UN Corruption Convention):
  • Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (Criminal Law Convention on Corruption):
  • Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption (Civil Law Convention on Corruption), and:
  • OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (OECD Corruption Convention).

Pursuant to the UN Corruption Convention, each country is required to adopt legislative and other measures that are deemed as necessary to establish the crime of bribery as a criminal offense when committed intentionally. The scope of the offense of bribery according to the Convention is the promise, offering or giving of an undue advantage to a public official, directly or indirectly, for the official himself or herself or another person or entity, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her official duties. As explained above, bribery under TPC does not fall far from the regulations of the UN Corruption Convention.

As mentioned, Turkey is also a party to the Council of Europe Conventions on corruption; Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and Civil Law Convention on Corruption.

The Criminal Law Convention on Corruption is aimed at fighting against certain corrupt practices at national and international levels and envisages international cooperation such as mutual assistance and extradition in the investigation and prosecution of corruption offenses.

According to this Convention, the act of bribery is defined as the promising, offering or giving by any person, directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage to any of its public officials, 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. The Criminal Law Convention on Corruption mainly covers the bribery of domestic and foreign public officials, bribery in the private sector and money laundering of proceeds from corruption. Furthermore, the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption requires its parties to provide effective sanctions and measures, including the penalty of imprisonment both for real persons and legal entities.

Nevertheless, domestic legislation on bribery is only criminal in its nature. However, it only deals with bribery of public officials and it does not regulate bribery in the private sector. Therefore, Turkey still has some road ahead to comply with its obligations under the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.

The Civil Law Convention on Corruption provides that its parties are required to provide "for effective remedies for persons who have suffered damage as a result of acts of corruption, to enable them to defend their rights and interests, including the possibility of obtaining compensation for damage." The term "corruption" is defined as requesting, offering, giving or accepting, directly or indirectly, a bribe or any other undue advantage or prospect, which distorts the proper performance of any duty or behaviour required of the recipient.

The Convention mainly covers the measures to be taken at national and international levels, and deals with issues of compensation for damages, liability, validity of contracts, protection of employees who report corruption and the clarity and accuracy of accounts and audits. In terms of Turkish legislation there is no explicit provision stipulating the civil law implications of corruption such as the compensation arising from a bribery offence and Turkey has not synchronized its legislation as per the Convention.

OECD Corruption Convention requires the parties to criminalize the bribery of foreign public officials when committed intentionally. The offense of bribery is defined as to offer, promise or give any undue pecuniary or other advantage, directly or indirectly, to a foreign public official, for that official or for a third party, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in relation to the performance of official duties in order to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business.

Turkey, as one of the parties of the OECD Corruption Convention and has synchronized the local legislation pursuant to the respective Convention.. Accordingly, bribing a foreign official in international commercial transactions is also stipulated in the Article 252/9 of the TPC in the event where an undue advantage is obtained by, offered or promised directly or through intermediaries to;

  • public officials elected or appointed in a foreign country:
  • judges, jury members or other officials acting in international or transnational or foreign state courts:
  • members of international or transnational parliament:
  • persons performing public activities for a foreign country, including public institutions or public corporations:
  • citizens or foreign arbitrators appointed within the framework of arbitration procedure applied for solution of a legal dispute:
  • officials or representatives of international or supranational organizations established based on an international agreement, in order to perform or not to perform a task with regard to their duties or to obtain or preserve a work or an unjust benefit due to international commercial transactions, or where an undue advantage requested or accepted by the respective persons shall also be considered as bribery and sentenced to the above mentioned sanction thereof.

Moreover, when the bribery offense falls within the scope of Article 252/9 and is committed by a foreigner abroad, with regard to a dispute to which; (i) Turkey, (ii) a public institution in Turkey, (iii) a legal entity established as per Turkish legislation, (iv) a Turkish citizen, is a party, or to perform or not to perform a transaction concerning these institutions or persons, investigation and prosecution are initiated ex officio against the persons who receive, request, accept the offer, promise or mediate a bribe or obtains an undue advantage for himself in connection with a bribery relationship if they are present in Turkey.

By way of the mentioned amendment, Turkey has mostly complied with the OECD Corruption Convention, but there are recommendations by the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions regarding the measures to be taken which includes:

  • Re-establishing an anti-bribery law on corporate liability, which will hold Turkish companies liable for bribery in their international business transactions;
  • Actively enforcing the Turkish codes against foreign bribery in ongoing investigations for three foreign bribery cases;
  • Adopting specific legislative and regulatory provisions, including instituting new laws to protect whistle-blowers and ending tax deductions for bribe payments and:
  • Developing awareness-raising and training on the bribery of foreign public officials in international business deals.

Conclusion – more work to be done

Even though several preventive and law enforcement measures for fighting against corruption are in place, the general overview of Turkey shows that there is a lot more work to be done in terms of developing a more secure legal system and decisive and impartial implementation.

As per the European Commission, Turkey 2013 Progress Report: "Turkey collects certain statistics on court decisions in corruption cases, with a break-down of figures for bribery, embezzlement, extortion and misuse of power. Overall for these four types of offence, there were 3.902 convictions, 15.265 acquittals and 69 arrests in 2012. Efforts are needed to develop a thorough track record of investigation, indictment and conviction. Following up on the policy suggestion to establish comprehensive tracking of data on corruption is of crucial importance in this respect".

As a matter of respective fact, weak enforcement of the laws and regulations in place has been reported by several international organizations. For instance, it has been stated in the European Commission, Turkey 2014 Progress Report that: "There continued to be insufficient control over and verification of assets declared by elected public officials, appointed public officials and political figures. In line with art 20 of the United Nations' Convention Against Corruption, Turkey should consider criminalising illicit enrichment. No changes were made on the immunity of Members of Parliament and certain public officials regarding corruption-related offences. The Council of Ethics for Public Servants had no power to enforce their decisions with disciplinary measures. Codes of ethics do not exist for military personnel or academics. Legal loopholes (disclosing gifts, financial interests and shares, foreign travel paid for by outside sources, etc.) in the code of ethics for parliamentarians remained".

In light of this, Turkey is supposed to bulk up its efforts to combat corruption based on its international commitments. The significant headline-grabbing corruption scandals, which are released to the public from time to time, could be seen as a need for a more aggressive and vigorous approach in Turkey's battle against corruption. The recent cases also hint to both short- and long-term action plans with a view to include more legislative efforts and an improved enforcement environment to tackle public enemy number one.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Burcu Tuzcu Ersin, LL.M.
Bora İkiler, LL.M.
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions