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Whistleblowing and self-reporting
Are whistleblowers protected in your jurisdiction?
The Central Public Prosecutor’s Office for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption implemented an effective system for individuals and corporations to notify the authority anonymously about a criminal suspicion. It provides a communication platform for whistleblowers via an online portal. To ease language barriers, there is even an English site available.
Reports can be submitted anonymously without being traced back. It is also possible for a whistleblower to communicate anonymously with the prosecutor’s office after the submission of the first report. This way, even whistleblowing perpetrators can initiate leniency programmes for their own benefit. Due to the very detailed specifics of the legal provisions, specialised know-how about executing such a plan is highly recommended.
It should be noted that in cases where whistleblowers fail to remain anonymous through choice or error, they risk suffering from the disclosure, since a major part of society still views whistleblowing negatively. For good reason, stakeholders still see a lot of room for improvement in protection of whistleblowers; availing oneself of the protections afforded to whistleblowers is highly recommended.
Is it common for leniency to be shown to organisations that self-report and/or cooperate with authorities? If so, what process must be followed?
The Criminal Procedure Code offers protection of principal witnesses. Section 209a stipulates leniency for perpetrators who remorsefully confess to the offence and disclose knowledge or evidence that:
- contributes to the clarification of the offence beyond their own level of participation; or
- helps to uncover a person participating in the offence.
The perpetrator must voluntarily contact the prosecution authorities to avail of these protections. This provision also expressly applies to corporations.
A specific leniency programme exists for violation of the Competition Law. While this programme has been used as a template for the introduction of leniency programmes into criminal law, the rules vary across different programmes. Any party seeking to benefit from an Austrian leniency system shoud seek advice from specially trained, qualified counsel.
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