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What penalties are available to the courts for violations of corruption laws by individuals?

For individuals, the principal penalties for corruption offences are imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of up to €1 million or twice the profits drawn from the offence. There is no clear guidance as to how to assess such a profit (Article 433-1 and 432-11 of the Criminal Code).

The other penalties that can be imposed on individuals are:

  • loss of civic, civil and family rights;
  • disqualification from holding public office or any professional or social activity related to the offence; and
  • prohibition against undertaking industrial or commercial activity, including management functions and confiscation of the profits resulting from the corruption (Article 433-22 of the Criminal Code).

Companies or organisations

What penalties are available to the courts for violations of corruption laws by companies or organisations?

Concerning companies or organisations, the principal penalty is a fine of up to €5 million for corruption (Articles 433-1, 432-11, 433-25 and 131-38 of the Criminal Code).

Other penalties that can be imposed on companies include:

  • temporary or definitive prohibition against undertaking an activity related to the infringement;
  • judicial supervision;
  • debarment from public tenders; and
  • confiscation of profits related to the offence (Article 433-25 and 131-39 of the Criminal Code).

The Sapin II Law introduced an additional penalty for when a company is convicted of bribery or influence peddling, which involves submitting a compliance programme under the control of the French Anti-Corruption Agency for a maximum period of five years. The company will bear all the costs of setting up such compliance. It is a mechanism close to the monitoring which exists in US and UK legislation. Failure of the representatives of the legal person to take the necessary measures or obstruct the proposed execution of the resulting measures is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to €50,000.

Admnistrative penalties may be imposed by the Sanctions Committee of the National Anti-corruption Agency (a maximum of €200,000 for individuals or €1 million for companies). 

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