"Prevention is key, as Italian law provides that sufficient internal controls can be a defence to a charge of commercial bribery."
1. What is bribery?
The Italian Criminal Code makes it a criminal offence for anyone who bribes or attempts to bribe a foreign public official where the offence is committed in order to procure an undue benefit directly or indirectly in international business transactions.
Legislative Decree no. 231 of 8 June 2001 introduced for the first time into Italian law the principle of criminal liability for legal entities. A company will be liable for certain criminal offences, including bribery, carried out in the company’s interest or for its advantage by: (i) people representing, administering or directing the company or an autonomous branch of the company (the “Key People”); or (ii) people subject to the control or supervision of the Key People. Individuals acting in their own or a third party’s interest will not trigger the company’s liability.
2. What are the exceptions/defences?
The company will escape liability if it can prove that the directive body of the company undertook internal procedures tailored to prevent such offences and that this was supervised by a body with independent powers. There is no exception under Italian law for facilitation payments.
3. What are the sanctions?
Sanctions range from imprisonment for individuals, to fines, seizure of assets and publication of the judgment both for individuals and for legal entities.