Answer ... In Belgium, public corruption is a criminal offence under Articles 246 to 252 of the Criminal Code, whereas private corruption is criminalised by Articles 504bis and 504ter of the Criminal Code.
There is no Belgian regulatory (ie, preventive) framework setting out specific requirements for companies (or individuals) to prevent corruption. However, failure to implement sound internal compliance systems and controls to prevent corruption may be used as evidence in criminal proceedings against the relevant company to demonstrate its willingness to participate in a corruption offence.
The anti-money laundering legislation of 18 September 2017 and the Royal Decree of 30 July 2018 on the operation of the UBO Register require all Belgian companies (and other identified entities) to register their beneficial owners in this central register. The register can be used as a screening tool to prevent corruption when doing business with third parties; its utility will increase in the first half of 2021, when all national registers across the European Union are set to be interconnected.
Answer ... The following supranational instruments on anti-corruption have effect in Belgium:
- the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention of 17 December1997 on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions;
- the United Nations Convention against Corruption of 31 October 2003;
- the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of 27 January 1999, including its additional protocol of 15 May 2003;
- the Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption of 04 November 1999;
- the EU Convention of 25 June 1997 drawn up on the basis of Article K3(2)(c) of the Treaty on European Union on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union;
- EU Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA of 22 July 2003 on combating corruption in the private sector; and
- Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of 05 July 2017 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law.
Answer ... In October 2015 the Belgian College of Public Prosecutors issued a circular which is specifically dedicated to the fight against corruption. The purpose of this circular is to highlight the materiality of both public and private corruption, and to make the prosecution of public corruption a priority for prosecutors – in particular, where corruption of a foreign official is concerned. Guidelines are given to prosecutors as part of this circular to ensure increased enforcement of anti-corruption provisions.
Answer ... Local public prosecutors are in charge of investigating and prosecuting corruption offences. In addition, one magistrate within the Federal Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for dealing with cross-district cases and large corruption investigations.
For corruption-related investigations, the public prosecutor is assisted by a special division of the federal police forces, the Central Office for the Repression of Corruption. This office, which has special expertise and tools to investigate corruption, is part of the Central Directorate for Combating Serious and Organised Crime of the Federal Judicial Police.
Answer ... Exhaustive statistics on past and ongoing anti-corruption procedures are not currently available in Belgium. This is despite the fact that in November 2015 the Belgian College of Public Prosecutors issued a circular which is specifically dedicated to the electronic recording of criminal proceedings related to economic and financial crime and corruption (for statistical purposes).
However, several key (supra)national stakeholders have highlighted the lack of enforcement of corruption offences by Belgian authorities in the recent past.
Answer ... In its Phase 3 evaluation of Belgium conducted in 2016, the OECD highlighted a number of shortcomings in the national anti-corruption legislation, including:
- the absence of specific regulatory legislation on the prevention of corruption;
- the dual criminality requirement both to grant Belgian courts certain extraterritorial jurisdiction powers and to proceed with mutual legal assistance requests from various countries;
- the insufficient length of the statute of limitations to allow adequate time to conduct foreign corruption investigations and prosecutions;
- the inadequacy of private sector whistleblower protection; and
- the lack of transparency of criminal settlement proceedings.