Until August 2011 the Bulgarian criminal law had not covered bribes or other unlawful means of influencing the course or outcome of sport competitions. But the new sport crime legislation foresees punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment and up to a EUR 15,000 fine, depending on the gravity of the offence.

For the first time, from 8 August 2011, a set of sport offences have been established under the criminal law of Bulgaria. Their aim is to criminalise sport fixing in Bulgaria. The new law is intended to counter the increasing number of cases reported in the media of alleged agreements by which a match or race has a completely or partially pre-determined result.

Four groups

The offences fall into four main groups.

First, a person is criminally liable who, through violence, fraud, intimidation or other illegal means, persuades another person to influence the course or outcome of a sporting event administered by a sport organisation.

Second, a person is criminally liable who has promised, offered or given an undue benefit to another person to motivate the latter to influence (or as consideration for having influenced) the course or outcome of a sporting event administered by a sport organisation.

The above two groups are subject to a more severe penalty if committed:

  • towards a participant in a race under 18 years of age;
  • towards two or more participants in a race;
  • towards or by a person serving in a management or supervisory body of a sport organisations, a sport referee, a delegate or another person in the performance or in connection with the performance of that person's duties;
  • by a person acting on behalf of or in carrying out a decision of an organised criminal group;
  • as part of a case of dangerous recidivism;
  • as a particularly severe case; or
  • in connection with a race featuring in a gambling activity with betting on the course or outcome of a sporting events.

Third, a person is criminally liable who has requested or accepted an undue benefit in order to influence (or as consideration for having influenced) the course or outcome of a sporting event.

Fourth, criminal liability is imposed on persons who have intermediated in the performance of any of the offences listed above, and on persons who have procured or organised the offering or acceptance of the undue benefit.

Corporate liability

A corporation may be liable under the statute if sport offences have been committed by agents of the corporation in the course of their duties and if the corporation benefited or would have benefited as a result of the offences.

"Agent" includes a decision-maker, a member of a supervisory board, a legal representative of the corporation, as well as an employee assigned particular work, in which case the corporation is liable if the employee committed the crime while acting within the scope of its employment.

The corporation is also liable even if the agent is only an accessory to the crime or if the crime has been prevented before its completion.

The corporate sanction is a fine of up to EUR 520,000, but in no case less than the value of the benefit conferred upon the corporation as a result of the crime

Corporate precautions

Thus, to reduce the risk of liability, corporations should take measures to ensure that they prevent sport offences being carried out by their agents on their behalf. To that end, corporations may find it advisable to be instructed on how to draft effective compliance codes as part of their general anti-corruption compliance programme. When done correctly, these codes can put adequate procedures in place across their business and reduce their exposure.

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.