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6 Types of Bribery and Why They’re Illegal

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

6 Types of Bribery and Why They’re Illegal

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This article provides an overview of at least six types of bribery and why they’re illegal practices.

Bribery is an illegal practice that involves soliciting, offering, receiving, or giving something valuable for the purpose of influencing the action(s) of an official in his or her discharge of legal or public duties. It is considered a white collar crime.

Bribery is a means for the perpetrator to gain a type of illicit or improper advantage.

For instance, if a candidate for public office offers voters $20 to cast their ballot for him, he is offering them bribes and, therefore, committing a crime.

Federal statutes describe two offense classes: bribery and graft. In comparison, graft means the act of fraudulently obtaining public funds unlawfully via corruption of public officers. Graft occurs when one person, because of his specific superior position, trust or influence, takes from another.

Extortion is sometimes confused with bribery. The primary difference between the two is that bribery includes a reward if the individual agrees to comply. (I will do something for you if you will do something for me.) Extortion, on the other hand, uses negative acts of violence to obtain compliance from another party. (I will hurt you if you don’t perform this act for me.)

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Types of Bribery

Bribery and other kinds of financial rebates, or “kickbacks,” occur in business and public domains. Public servants, owners or managers of commercial enterprises, and bankers face bribery charges. If convicted of bribery, the offender faces significant financial penalties and incarceration.

The types of bribery include:

#1: Bribery and Kickbacks

Bribery may involve the transfer of favors or compensation in exchange for a specific beneficial treatment or decision. For instance, paying off a public servant for his or her vote or decision is an example.

However, bribery is a nuanced crime. For that reason, laws pertaining to bribery and kickbacks are updated by the state of Texas on a regular basis.

#2: Bribes and Public Officials

The General Federal Bribery Statute describes the offense of bribery [18 USCS perc § 201(b)]. The law states that an individual or party who directly or indirectly (corruptly) “gives, offers, or promises” something of value to a public official with the intent to influence his or her “official act” may face bribery charges.

An individual who serves in any official capacity in the federal government may not accept, receive, or demand a bribe in exchange for his or her beneficial or favorable act or decision.

If convicted of bribery, the offender faces 15 years in prison and three times the face amount of the bribe in fines. He or she may also be qualified from holding an office of profit, trust or honor in the United States government in the future.

In comparison, a person who proposes a bribe to a public official faces imprisonment of up to two years as well as fines.

#3: Bribing of (or by) a Witness

If convicted of offering bribes to a public servant, the offender faces a maximum two-year prison sentence.
If a witness demands, receives, or accepts a bribe for his or her altered testimony, he or she may be fined 300 percent of the face amount of the bribe plus a maximum 15-year prison sentence.

#4: Bribing a Foreign Official

The federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bans the act of bribing foreign officials by U.S. corporate representatives.
Publicly-traded companies are required to document their business transactions, even if they don’t transact business with foreign entities.

However, loopholes such as “grease payments” used to expedite paperwork needed to obtain licenses and permits in some types of business transactions are legal.

#5: Bank Bribery

The Bank Bribery Amendments Act of 1985 prohibits the solicitation of banking officials. These officials may not accept entertainment or meals. If a banking official accepts a bribe greater than $1,000, he or she faces fines of 300 percent of the face amount of the bribe received plus a maximum 30-year prison sentence.

Bank officials must also report attempted, offered bribes even when they do not accept them.

#6: Sporting Bribes

A sporting official may not accept bribes in exchange for his or her influence of a sporting event outcome.

Referees found guilty of receiving or accepting bribes may face significant fines and up to five years in prison.

Bribery and Industry

Bribery is common in many industries, including building and construction trades, health care, and pension and benefits administration industries.

Some of examples of illegal kickbacks or bribes include:

  • A pension or benefits provide might offer cash or additional bonuses to brokers who push their services over another provider’s.
  • A contractor might agree to kickback a portion of his earnings to the official who chose his business for the project.
  • A medical device business might offer benefits like free training or vacations to physicians who prescribe their devices.

The General Bribery statute doesn’t prohibit payment/receipt of fees paid to witnesses by law, including payments made to expert witnesses.

Special bribery provisions, such as the statutes that prohibit the bribery of bank officials or bribery incidents relating to bank and loan transactions, don’t affect enforcement of the General Federal Bribery statute.

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Bribery Charge Elements

At a basic level, the prosecutor must show that an agreement existed to exchange something valuable, e.g. political influence, for compensation or money. A written agreement isn’t necessary to prove bribery, but the prosecutor must show that the agreement existed.

For instance, a recorded call between the party offering money to a state representative to cast his vote against a bill is sufficient evidence. Likewise, a video recording of the party giving the representative a suitcase full of cash would suffice.

The federal government considers specific elements to prosecuted bribery charges against employees of the U.S. government, including:

  • The person accepting bribes is a public official, including staffers to elected officials.
  • Something of value was offered in the bribe, either a tangible item (like cash) or an intangible (like the recipient of the bribe promising to provide support or influence in exchange for a beneficial act).
  • An official act may be influenced by the party offering a bribe (like a pending bill that directly affects the briber’s business interests).
  • The public service has power or authority to commit this official act (for example, the official is a congressman who’s voting on a sensitive bill).
  • Intent must be established by the briber to obtain a certain result (such as the briber’s intent to get the congressman to influence the vote by giving him a suitcase filled with cash).
  • The prosecutor must identify the causal connection between the bribe and the official act. Something more than just “suspicion” or “coincidence” must exist. If the bribe influenced the act, it’s up to the prosecutor to prove it.

Bribery Defense Strategies

A bribery conviction may depend on surreptitiously collected surveillance evidence or recordings. The police must work within the limitations of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. If they don’t, evidence against the defendant may be suppressed.

In the event of suppression, the judge enters a pre-trial order declaring that the evidence can’t be used against the accused.

This step provides the defendant and his or her criminal defense lawyers with the chance to deconstruct improperly obtained evidence. If sufficient evidence is suppressed, the prosecution is likely to dismiss the case.

Facing Bribery Charges? Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

A single allegation of bribery will affect your professional reputation. Alleged acts of bribery and corruption may result in charges in both federal and state courts. Statements and/or evidence coming from one court may be used in another court against you.

If you’re convicted, you face prison and significant fines as well.

Your criminal defense must include a forward-focused strategy. To obtain the best possible outcome, you need an experienced white collar crimes lawyer to protect your interests and, if necessary, negotiate on your behalf.

If you’re facing bribery charges, contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros in Houston at 832-752-5972 to schedule an initial case evaluation.

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