Corruption is undeniably a risk for the prosperity of a society and the companies running in a country. To curb corrupt practices has always been an utmost preference for the UAE government. However, there are no comprehensive and stand-alone anti-corruption and anti-bribery or anti-corruption laws in place in the UAE. Nevertheless, the UAE has been fighting against corruption and bribery since 1980. It has expressly incorporated the primary provisions regarding corruption and bribery in the major law, Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 as amended subsequently (the UAE Penal Code), as well as in other federal and local laws such as the Federal Decree-Law Number 11 of 2008, Federal Human Resources Law, the  UAE Federal Law Number 21 of 2001 concerning Civil Service; the Dubai Government Human Resources Management Law Number 27 of 2006; Abu Dhabi Law Number 1 of 1970 (Abu Dhabi Penal Code), Dubai Penal Law of 1970 (the Dubai Penal Code), the Dubai Financial Fraud Law 2009 and the Abu Dhabi Law Number 1 of 2006 regarding Civil Service in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The federal law criminalizes including but not limited to active or passive bribery, embezzlement, corruption, abuse of power/office.  

The particular provisions regarding corruption and bribery are mainly outlined in the UAE Penal Code in its articles 234 to 239.  It criminalizes the acts of bribery strictly and has set out stringent penalties for the persons involved in this offense. Articles 234, 235, 237 set out major offenses of receiving a bribe by public and private sector employees. Under the preceding articles, it is an offense for a public official, foreign public official, an official of an international organization, or a foreign service employee to request or accept directly or indirectly a bribe (in the form of a gift or any privilege or a promise) for himself or another person, in return for which promises to act or omit particular assigned duties to him in breach of his duties. Articles 234 and 235 set out a penalty for the recipient of a bribe, an imprisonment not more than ten years for an act or omission of his duty. 

Article 236 of the Code provides that the arbitrators, experts, and investigators shall be deemed the public officials to the extent of the duties assigned to them.  Article 236 (bis) of the Penal Code provides a separate offense for the public sector officials, and it provides a punishment of imprisonment for not exceeding five years for the public official who is involved in the act of bribery directly or indirectly requesting or accepting of any gift or benefit for himself or another person. Article 236 (bis) (2) provides for the private sector officials involved in receiving a gift, benefit, or grant, for himself or another person directly or indirectly shall be liable to imprisonment for a period, not more than five years.

According to Article 237 of the Code, any person who is found involved in offering or giving a public servant or a person assigned with public service, or an employee of an international organization or a foreign public servant, a gift, grant, or benefit that is undue, directly or indirectly, for himself or another person’s benefit, shall be penalized to imprisonment for not more than five years. 

Articles 237 (bis) and 237 (bis) (2) prohibit any person from assisting or abetting in the act of bribery or acting as an intermediary between the briber and the bribe taker in the bribery transactions, and such intermediator shall be punished with imprisonment up to five years. Article 238 prescribes a fine along with the imprisonment, and the fine equals the offered or received amount, but it shall not be less than five thousand dirhams. The gifts received by the public servant as a bribe shall be confiscated. If the bribeer or intermediary reported the crime to the judicial authorities before it is discovered, shall be exempted from the penalty under Article 239 of the Penal Code. Article 239 (bis) (1) of the Penal Code provides that the provisions of bribery in the Code have an extra-territorial effect, and the provisions shall apply outside the UAE in case if the offender or the victim is a citizen of the UAE or if such crime is committed by an employee of the public or private sector of the UAE, or involving the public property. The UAE is a signatory of numerous international treaties and judicial treaties regarding anti-corruption and bribery, such as ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) through the Federal Decree Number 8 of 2006 and the Arab Convention to Fight Corruption was ratified by the UAE in 2010 and Federal Decree Number 39 of 2006, providing judicial cooperation in extradition matters.

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The Penal Code held companies liable for the criminal acts of bribery, embezzlement, corruption by their directors, representatives, or agents acting on behalf of company or company’s inaction even after knowing such offensive activities or not aware of the activities under Article 65 of Penal Code and such companies should be liable to fine not more than five hundred thousand dirhams along with the penalties provided for the offender in the Code. The employer is vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of its employees under Civil Transactions Law Number 5 of 1985 as civil liability.  Federal Law Number 2 of 2015 concerning Commercial Companies (the Company Law) set forth obligations for the companies to prevent bribery and corruption. The Public Prosecutor can prosecute bribery cases before the UAE courts, with jurisdiction over such matters, among many others.

The emirate of Dubai has established Dubai Economic Security Centre (DESC) to monitor and combat bribery and corruption by proposing and recommending legislation to regulate financial affairs in Dubai; monitoring abuse and financial irregularities in Dubai; preparing and publishing periodical reports and statistics on the financial and economic state of Dubai; combating corruption, embezzlement, fraud, bribery, forgery, money laundering and other offenses committed by entities under the jurisdiction of DESC; supervising the trading of currencies, securities, precious metals, and commodities, both listed and unlisted. The DESC is empowered to suspend trade in the stock market, suspend, freeze or reactivate any regulations related to the financial market, and obtain bank details of any natural or legal person. During the investigation, can request the Public Prosecutor to seize funds and documents and other relevant things to the investigation.

Following government bodies are responsible for enforcing the laws regarding bribery and corruption;

  • The Anti-Corruption Unit (known as the Abu Dhabi Accountability Authority) was established by Abu Dhabi Law Number 14 of 2008, in 2015, which regulate public sector bodies;
  • The State Audit Institution (SAI) deals with public sector bodies;
  • The Police Forces of the UAE (jurisdiction limited to each Emirates);
  • The Abu Dhabi Accountability Authority;
  • The Central Bank of the UAE has the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit.

Moreover, the limitation period for bringing actions against offenses related to bribery was removed in the Penal Code’s provisions in 2016. There is no limitation period to bring a civil action against bribery offenses and corruption offenses in the UAE.

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