Turkey: The Anti-Bribery And Anti-Corruption Review - Turkey Chapter


In the past two decades, rapid growth and globalisation in business have triggered many challenges, such as the prevention of corruption and bribery, sustainability of fair competition, environmental protection and income justice. As two major global problems, corruption and bribery concern trade and investment regulations, governmental transparency and misconduct. The implementation of anti-corruption and anti-bribery measures is particularly important for sustaining economic and political consistency, as well as for developing ethical and transparent business conduct in multinational corporations.

Turkey's fight against corruption and bribery was and still is a crucial condition for its accession to the European Union. In the past 20 years, Turkey has signed and ratified a number of international conventions and substantively aligned its domestic legislation with these conventions.

In July 2012, provisions governing the crimes of corruption and bribery under the Turkish Penal Code2 (TPC) were amended with the enactment of Law No. 6352. This amendment redefined the crime of bribery and broadened its scope. The law provides that even where bribery has been committed outside Turkey, if the crime is connected in any way with the state of Turkey or a Turkish public institution, private entity or individual, it will be prosecuted in Turkey. With regard to the crime of corruption, the 2012 amendment enlightened the judiciary about the definition of 'coercion', which is the main element that distinguishes corruption from bribery.


There is no specific anti-corruption and anti-bribery law in Turkey. The legislative instruments in this regard are governed under various pieces of legislation. These are: (1) the TPC; (2) Law No. 3628 on the Declaration of Assets and Combating Bribery and Corruption3 (the Asset Declaration Law); (3) Law No. 657 on Civil Servants4 (the Civil Servants Law); and (4) the Law Related to the Establishment of the Council of Ethics for Public Services and Amendments to Some Laws5 (the Ethics Rules Law).

i Scope of the term 'public official'

Turkish law does not provide a uniform definition for the term 'public official'. The scope of this term varies from one legislative instrument to another. Article 128 of the Turkish Constitution provides that the fundamental and permanent functions required by public services will be carried out by 'civil servants' and 'other public employees'. The breadth of this provision is such that the term 'public employees' comprises both civil servants and other public employees, who perform public services based on assignment or their employment relationship with the state, even though they may not necessarily be civil servants.

The Civil Servants Law sets forth four employment categories: civil servants, personnel employed on a contractual basis,6 temporary personnel and employees. The term 'civil servant' is defined under Article 4 as 'regardless of the existing establishment structure of the relevant entity, persons who are assigned the task of performing fundamental and permanent public services, executed in line with the general administrative principles of the state and other public legal entities'. The Civil Servants Law prohibits civil servants from requesting and accepting gifts. According to this Law, the Public Officials Ethics Board (the Ethics Board) is authorised to determine the scope of this prohibition.

The Ethics Board was established pursuant to the Ethics Rules Law, which entered into force for adopting rules and monitoring public officials' implementation of principles related to transparency, impartiality, honesty, accountability and obligation to observe public interest. The Ethics Rules Law is applicable to:

[...] all personnel employed at departments included in the general state budget, contributed budget administrations, state economic enterprises, working capital establishments, local administrations and unions thereof, all public establishments and institutions founded under the names of committees, upper committees, institutions, institutes, enterprises, organisations, funds and similar possessing public entities, the chairpersons and members of management and audit committees, boards and supreme boards.

The Ethics Rules Law is not applicable to the President, members of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, members of the Council of Ministers, members of the Turkish Armed Forces, and members of the judiciary and universities.

Another law that provides a different definition for the term 'public official', while setting forth rules on the provision of gifts and benefits to public officials, is the Asset Declaration Law. Persons falling within this scope are, in summary:

  1. officers appointed through elections as well as externally appointed ministers;
  2. public notaries;
  3. certain higher officials of various public institutions;
  4. officers, civil servants, directors, auditors and other persons who are not employees, that work in general and contributed budget institutions, municipalities, special provincial administrations, state economic enterprises and their subsidiaries and affiliates;
  5. leaders of political parties;
  6. members of administrative bodies of foundations;
  7. chairpersons, board members and general managers of cooperatives and unions;
  8. directors and auditors of public interest associations; and
  9. individuals owning newspapers, and board members, auditors, responsible managers and columnists of companies that own newspapers.

The broadest definition for the term 'public official' is provided under the TPC. Article 6(c) of the TPC defines the term 'public official' as 'a person who is involved in the operations of public activities, for a definite or indefinite term, either by way of election or nomination or any other way'. Accordingly, the main criterion for regarding a person as a 'public official' is the public nature of the services that he or she is rendering. The person's 'employment relationship' with the state (or any public legal entity) is not specifically sought.

ii Legal framework of anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies of Turkey

Turkey constructed its legislative system on three main divisions: (1) public administration law; (2) civil law; and (3) criminal law. Turkey developed a comprehensive legal framework to facilitate a sustainable fight against corruption and bribery, both in the public and the private sectors. Although the definition and elements of the crimes of bribery and corruption and their legal consequences are primarily dealt with under the TPC, there are many other laws concerning public administration that regulate public officials' acceptance of gifts and benefits. These laws ultimately aim to ensure transparency, equality and ethical conduct in the rendering of public services.

iii Criminal law perspective

The TPC is the primary legislation governing the crimes of bribery and corruption. The crime of bribery is described as a reciprocal crime (i.e., both the party who provides or promises the bribe and the public official involved in the crime will be subject to criminal penalties). On the other hand, in the crime of corruption, the offender is the public official, while the person who is approached for the benefit is the victim.

Article 252 of the TPC states that providing a benefit to a public official or a third party that is designated by a public official, directly or through third parties, for ensuring the performance or omission of the public official's duties, constitutes the crime of bribery. Article 252 specifies the legal sanction for the crime of bribery as imprisonment for four to 12 years.

Bribery is deemed to have been committed if and when a person (or a legal entity) and a public official reach an agreement on the provision of a benefit, in return for the public official's performance or omission of his or her duties. Accordingly, performing the 'provision of the benefit' is not necessary for bribery to be committed. The parties' intention and their mere agreement are sufficient.

In principle, bribery can be committed with the involvement of both parties (i.e., the individual or legal entity and the public official), and both parties will be subject to criminal penalties. However, under Article 252(8) of the TPC, in order to punish an individual or legal entity in the private sector for bribery, the recipient or requesting party must be one of the following: (1) an organisation in the form of a public institution; (2) a corporation or organisation incorporated with the participation of a public institution, in the form of a public institution; (3) a foundation operating within an organisation; (4) an association or cooperative serving a public interest; or (5) a publicly held joint-stock corporation.

If an individual (or legal entity) offers to provide a benefit to a public official but the public official refuses to receive the bribe or a public official asks for the benefit but the addressee of the request refuses to provide it, only the party who was involved in the criminal actions will be held liable, and the duration of imprisonment will be reduced.

Furthermore, a third party who helps the parties to conclude a bribery agreement or a third party to whom a benefit is provided, as requested by the public official, will be deemed an accomplice. Accomplices will also be subject to criminal penalties. In addition, under Article 253 of the TPC, if a legal entity gains benefits through bribery, it can be subject to certain security measures.7 In addition to the applicable security measures, legal entities can also be subject to administrative fines of between 23,000 lira and 4.6 million lira, based on the Law on Misdemeanours.8

The crime of corruption, on the other hand, is defined under Article 250 of the TPC as: 'the public official's forcing of a person in a coercive manner, abusing his or her public authority and powers, to provide him or her or a third party with a benefit or forcing a person to promise to do so, for performing his or her duties'. The main criterion for specifying the public official's criminal actions as corrupt is their use of coercion towards the person. As described under Article 250, coercion is deemed to exist where a person provides a benefit to a public official or a third party because of concerns that, without it, the official will not perform his or her duties (at all or on time). The legal sanction for committing corruption is imprisonment for five to 10 years.

However, the TPC also stipulates that if and when coercion does not exist (i.e., if a public official convinces a person in a fraudulent manner, by abusing the trustworthiness of his or her position, to provide him or her or a third party with a benefit or to promise to do so), the public official will be sentenced to imprisonment for three to five years. Furthermore, if the public official commits this crime by exploiting the person's misunderstanding, he or she will be sentenced to imprisonment for one to three years. Article 250 of the TPC also provides that the length of the imprisonment penalty may be reduced, once the value of the benefit and the victim's economic conditions are taken into account.

iv Public administration law perspective

A public official's acceptance of gifts or other benefits can be subject to various laws, and regulations of Turkish public administration law, depending on different factors. These include the characteristics of the benefit in question, the status and duties of the public official, and the legal relationship between the relevant official and the provider of the gift or benefit.

For example, the Asset Declaration Law stipulates an asset declaration obligation that public officials must fulfil on a periodical basis. This statutory obligation aims to monitor increases in the public official's personal assets. The Asset Declaration Law also provides that a public official who receives a gift or donation of a value exceeding 10 multiples of his or her monthly salary from any foreign country, international organisation or any other international legal entity pursuant to any international protocol, must deliver the property to the organisation in which he or she is employed.

The Civil Servants Law prohibits civil servants from requesting or receiving gifts and loans from their subordinates and third parties. As to the definition of the term 'gift', the Civil Servants Law refers to the Ethics Board's authority. The Ethics Board has published the Regulation on the Ethical Conduct Principles of Public Officials (the Ethics Regulation), which provides that:

[...] public officials are not allowed to accept gifts or benefits, directly or through an intermediary, from individuals or legal entities with whom they are in a business, service or benefit relationship, within the scope of their duties, either for themselves or for their relatives, any third parties or other institutions.

Under the Ethics Regulation, 'any kind of property or interest, with or without economic value, accepted either directly or indirectly, is regarded as gifts, if they have an effect on or have the possibility to affect the impartiality, performance, decision or duty of a public official'. In this regard, depending on the merits of each case, even the provision of a meal and transportation to a business meeting with a public official may be found impermissible, if it is possible that the meal and transportation affected the public official's decision.

Under Turkish public administration law, the main criterion to consider when determining whether the provision of a gift or benefit to a public official is permissible is the 'effect' that such a gift or benefit has on the public official, rather than its size or material value. According to the Public Officials Ethics Guide, published by the Ethics Board in 2014, if a public official has doubts on whether a gift or benefit is permissible, then he or she should ask himself or herself the following question: 'If I were not a public official, and if I were not holding the position that I hold today, would I still have received this gift or benefit?' According to this guide, if the answer is 'absolutely yes', the gift can be accepted. However, if the answer is 'no' or if there are any reservations, then the gift must be declined.

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1. Okan Demirkan is a partner, and Begüm Biçer İlikay and Başak İslim are associates, at Kolcuoğlu Demirkan Koçaklı.

2. Published in the Official Gazette dated 12 October 2004 and numbered 25611.

3. Published in the Official Gazette dated 4 May 1990 and numbered 20508.

4. Published in the Official Gazette dated 20 July 1965 and numbered 12053.

5. Published in the Official Gazette dated 8 June 2004 and numbered 25486.

6. Personnel in the following five groups are considered to be personnel employed on a contractual basis, who are regulated separately by special laws:

a. personnel working on the basis of Article 4(B) of the Civil Servants Law;

b. permanent personnel employed on a contractual basis;

c. personnel working in regulatory authorities (independent administrative authorities) employed on a contractual basis (e.g., the Competition Board, Capital Markets Board and Banking Regulation and Supervision Authority);

d. personnel working in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, employed on a contractual basis; and

e. personnel working in state economic enterprises in line with Decree No. 399 on the Personnel Regime of State Economic Enterprises employed on a contractual basis.

7. The most commonly implemented security measure in Turkey is cancellation of the legal entity's licences to conduct its operations, if the entity is active in a regulated business. Seizure of the benefits that the legal entity obtained through the crime of bribery may also be implemented as a different security measure.

8. Published in the Official Gazette dated 31 March 2005 and numbered 25772.

Originally published by Law Business Research Ltd, November 2017.

© Kolcuoğlu Demirkan Koçaklı Attorneys at Law 2017

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.

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