Monday, October 14, 2013

Anti-Bribery Laws: Restrictions on Providing or Receiving Gifts

The Omani Government has in place a number of legislations targeting bribery and corruption, specifically in the public sector.

Gifts and considerations in this respect would fall under the ambit of anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws. Although a proper definition of a “gift” is not provided by the Omani legislature, or at what value would a gift be considered a “bribe”, nevertheless the Omani Penal Code offers a short illustration of what constitutes bribery: “Any person who accepted a bribe for himself or for another person, be it in cash or a present or a promise or any other benefit for performing a lawful act of his duties, or for forbearing to do it or delaying its execution.”

Public Sector Employees

Government officials are subject to stringent anti-bribery/corruption regulations. Royal Decree No. 112 of 2011 “the Law for the Protection of Public Funds and Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest” (the “Anti-Corruption Law”) prohibits giving, accepting and mediating bribes, and prohibits this most forcefully and specifically in the context of public sector employees. Oman’s Anti-Corruption Law lists a number of categories under this prohibition such as:

  • granting or facilitating a special benefit or preferential treatment for a natural or juristic person, without a justified reason;
  • receiving any outside consideration (directly or indirectly) for the work an employee performs within the scope of his employment, or as a result of it; and
  • using public funds for the employee’s personal benefit or allowing misuse of public funds by others.

In addition to the above, the Omani Penal Code stipulates that a governmental official shall be liable to imprisonment for up to ten years and a fine equivalent to at least the value of the bribe if he accepts or demands a bribe for doing an act inconsistent with his official duties or for forbearance of an act with which he is charged by virtue of his office, and shall be perpetually suspended from his duties. The penalty applies also to the briber and the mediator as well as the attorneys of the cases if they commit such acts.

Application to Private Sector Employees

While Omani legislation mainly targets bribery and corruption in the public sector, provisions of the Omani Penal Code would likely apply to employees of private sector companies. Bribery is listed as a misdemeanor in the Penal Code and is punishable by penalties of fines and/or apprehension.

The Anti-Corruption Law may be applicable to private sector companies in certain instances; for , where the government has 40% shareholding of the company or in situations whereby the private sector company would have dealings with government bodies and officials.

Furthermore, sponsorship of a government official (by way of expenses associated with a conference or seminar) could fall foul of the Anti-Corruption Law if it were found by the Courts to fall within any of the listed categories in the Anti-Corruption Law.