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What is Bribery?

Bribery refers to the act of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value with the intention of influencing the actions or decisions of an individual in a position of power or authority. It is an unethical and illegal practice that undermines trust, fairness, and integrity in both public and private sectors. Bribery can occur in various forms and in different contexts, such as politics, business, and sports.


Bribery can be defined as the act of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value as a means to influence the behavior or decisions of individuals in positions of power, authority, or trust. This can include money, gifts, favors, or other benefits that are intended to persuade or reward an individual for acting in a desired manner.

Types of Bribery

Bribery can take different forms depending on the context in which it occurs. Some common types of bribery include:

  1. Petty Bribery: This involves small-scale acts of bribery, often in the form of small bribes, gifts, or favors exchanged for preferential treatment or to bypass rules or regulations.

  2. Grand Bribery: Grand bribery refers to larger-scale acts of bribery that involve significant sums of money, valuable assets, or other substantial benefits in exchange for more significant favors or outcomes.

  3. Extortion: Extortion occurs when someone in a position of power or authority demands something of value from another party under threat or coercion.

  4. Facilitation Payments: Also known as grease payments or speed money, facilitation payments are small sums of money or gifts given to expedite routine tasks, such as obtaining permits or licenses.

Examples of Bribery

Examples of bribery can be found in various contexts. In the political sphere, bribery may involve politicians accepting campaign contributions in exchange for favorable policies or decisions. In the business world, bribery can occur when companies offer bribes to secure contracts or gain a competitive advantage. In sports, bribery can manifest as the illegal practice of bribing players, referees, or officials to influence the outcome of events or matches.

Anti-Bribery Laws and Regulations

To combat bribery and promote transparency, many countries have enacted laws and regulations specifically targeting corrupt practices. These laws aim to hold individuals and organizations accountable for engaging in bribery and provide a legal framework for preventing and punishing such behavior.

International Laws

At the international level, several organizations and conventions have been established to address bribery and corruption. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is a global legal framework adopted by most countries to combat corruption, including bribery. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also developed the Anti-Bribery Convention, which requires member countries to criminalize bribery of foreign public officials.

National Laws

In addition to international agreements, individual countries have their own anti-bribery laws and regulations. Examples include the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the United Kingdom Bribery Act, and the Indian Prevention of Corruption Act. These laws establish legal standards, impose penalties, and provide guidelines for preventing and reporting bribery.

Corporate Compliance

To adhere to anti-bribery laws, many companies have implemented compliance programs to prevent bribery within their organizations. These programs typically include internal policies, procedures, and training to ensure employees understand and comply with legal and ethical standards. Regular risk assessments, due diligence, and monitoring are also part of an effective compliance regime.

Consequences of Bribery

The consequences of engaging in bribery can be severe, both legally and economically. Individuals and organizations found guilty of bribery may face legal sanctions, financial penalties, imprisonment, and damage to their reputation.

Legal Consequences

Bribery is considered a crime in most jurisdictions, and those involved can face criminal charges. Individuals found guilty of bribery may be subject to fines, forfeiture of assets, and even imprisonment. In some cases, companies may also face corporate liability for the actions of their employees.

Economic Consequences

Bribery has significant economic consequences, both for the individuals involved and the overall economy. It distorts market competition by granting unfair advantages to those who engage in bribery, leading to inefficient resource allocation and hindering economic growth. Resources that should be allocated based on merit and competitiveness are instead misallocated, resulting in inefficiencies and loss of productivity.


In some cases, individuals convicted of bribery may face imprisonment as part of their legal punishment. This serves as a deterrent to potential offenders and aims to protect society by removing corrupt individuals from positions of power.

Damage to Reputation

Engaging in bribery can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s or company’s reputation. Being associated with corrupt practices undermines trust and credibility, making it difficult to regain the confidence of clients, partners, and the public. This can lead to loss of business opportunities, damage to brand image, and a decline in investor confidence.

Causes and Motivations for Bribery

Understanding the causes and motivations behind bribery is crucial in addressing and preventing this unethical practice. Several factors contribute to the prevalence of bribery, including corruption, power imbalances, and economic inequality.


Corruption is a systemic issue that creates an environment conducive to bribery. Weak governance structures, lack of transparency, and inadequate enforcement mechanisms contribute to corruption. When corruption is widespread, individuals may feel compelled to engage in bribery to navigate bureaucratic hurdles or gain advantages in a corrupt system.

Power Imbalance

Bribery often occurs in situations where there is a power imbalance between the parties involved. The individual offering the bribe may have more resources or influence than the recipient, giving them an unfair advantage. This power imbalance can occur in various settings, such as between businesses and government officials, or between employers and employees.

Economic Inequality

Socioeconomic disparities can also contribute to bribery. In societies where there is significant economic inequality, individuals may resort to bribery as a means to overcome barriers or gain access to essential services. In such situations, bribery becomes a symptom of deeper socioeconomic problems that need to be addressed to effectively combat this issue.

Prevention and Detection of Bribery

Preventing and detecting bribery requires a combination of measures that promote transparency, protect whistleblowers, and strengthen legal frameworks.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is a useful tool for measuring and comparing corruption levels in different countries. It ranks countries based on perceived levels of public sector corruption and provides insights into where corruption is more prevalent. By tracking and analyzing these rankings, policymakers can identify areas of improvement and implement measures to combat bribery.

Whistleblower Protection

Whistleblowers play a critical role in exposing bribery and corruption. Protecting and incentivizing individuals who report bribery is essential to encourage them to come forward. Effective whistleblower protection laws and mechanisms ensure that individuals who expose corruption are shielded from retaliation and receive appropriate support and whistleblower rewards.

Strengthening Legal Frameworks

To combat bribery effectively, legal frameworks must be robust and enforceable. This includes adequate legislation that criminalizes bribery, provisions for asset recovery, and mechanisms to prosecute offenders. Additionally, governments should establish independent anti-corruption agencies and ensure their proper funding and autonomy to investigate and hold corrupt individuals accountable.

Impact of Bribery on Societies

Bribery has far-reaching consequences that go beyond individual cases. It undermines trust, distorts market competition, and impedes development.

Undermining Trust and Integrity

When bribery becomes prevalent in a society, it erodes trust in public institutions and the rule of law. People lose confidence in the fairness and impartiality of government entities, leading to a breakdown in public trust. This lack of trust can have long-term social and economic consequences, as it weakens the fabric of society and hinders cooperation and progress.

Distorting Market Competition

Bribery distorts market competition by giving unfair advantages to those who engage in corrupt practices. This creates an uneven playing field, where individuals or companies with more resources can bypass rules and regulations, gaining an unfair advantage over their competitors. Honest and ethical businesses suffer as they are unable to compete on an equal footing, leading to market inefficiencies and decreased innovation.

Impeding Development

Bribery hampers economic and social development by diverting resources away from their intended purposes. Funds that should be allocated to public services, infrastructure development, and social welfare programs are instead misused or embezzled through corrupt practices. This undermines sustainable development efforts, perpetuates poverty, and exacerbates social inequalities.

Bribery in Different Sectors

Bribery can occur in various sectors and industries, including politics, business, and sports. Each sector faces unique challenges and requires tailored approaches to mitigate bribery risks.

Bribery in Politics

Bribery in politics involves the exchange of favors, gifts, or financial contributions to influence political decisions or gain unfair advantages. It can manifest in various forms, such as vote-buying, illicit campaign financing, or the exchange of bribes for policy decisions. Political bribery undermines the democratic process, erodes public trust, and compromises the integrity of political institutions.

Bribery in Business

Bribery in business occurs when companies offer or accept bribes to secure contracts, gain preferential treatment, or secure market advantages. This can involve bribing government officials, employees, or other stakeholders to influence business decisions or obtain confidential information. Business bribery distorts competition, hampers fair trade, and harms the reputation of companies involved.

Bribery in Sports

Bribery in sports refers to the illegal practice of bribing athletes, referees, officials, or organizers to influence the outcome of events or matches. This can range from match-fixing and doping scandals to bribes given to secure hosting rights for major sporting events. Sports bribery undermines the fairness and integrity of sports, erodes public trust, and tarnishes the reputation of athletes and sporting organizations.

Famous Bribery Scandals

Throughout history, there have been several high-profile bribery scandals that have captured public attention and led to significant reforms and increased scrutiny.

Watergate Scandal

The Watergate scandal, which unfolded in the early 1970s, was one of the most infamous political bribery scandals in the United States. It involved illegal activities, including break-ins, wiretapping, and bribery, directed by members of the Nixon administration to gather intelligence and gain unfair advantages during the 1972 presidential campaign.

FIFA Corruption Scandal

In 2015, FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, was embroiled in a massive corruption scandal. Numerous high-ranking officials were indicted for accepting bribes and kickbacks in relation to the awarding of World Cup hosting rights, sponsorship deals, and other commercial contracts. This scandal resulted in significant reforms within FIFA and increased scrutiny of corruption within sports organizations.

Siemens Scandal

The Siemens scandal, which came to light in 2006, involved widespread bribery and corruption within the German engineering company Siemens AG. Company officials were found guilty of paying bribes to secure contracts in various countries, including Greece, Argentina, and Nigeria. The scandal resulted in substantial financial penalties, legal consequences for individuals involved, and damaged the reputation of Siemens.

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Measures to Combat Bribery

Efforts to combat bribery require a multi-faceted approach involving international initiatives, corporate governance reforms, and education and awareness campaigns.

International Initiatives

International organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, and OECD play a crucial role in combating bribery on a global scale. They facilitate cooperation among countries, promote the adoption of anti-bribery laws and regulations, and provide guidance and technical assistance to countries in need.

Corporate Governance Reforms

Reforming corporate governance practices is essential to prevent bribery within businesses. This includes implementing robust compliance programs, conducting thorough due diligence when entering into business relationships, and promoting a culture of ethics and integrity within organizations. Whistleblower hotlines, internal control systems, and independent audits are also effective tools in detecting and preventing bribery.

Education and Awareness

Raising awareness about the harmful effects of bribery is key to preventing its occurrence. Educational initiatives targeting individuals, businesses, and communities can help foster a culture of integrity and ethical behavior. Teaching individuals about the consequences of bribery and promoting ethical decision-making can serve as a powerful deterrent.


Bribery is a pervasive problem that has detrimental effects on societies, economies, and public trust. It undermines fair competition, distorts market dynamics, and hinders social progress. To combat this issue effectively, a comprehensive approach is needed, involving strong laws and regulations, enforcement mechanisms, and preventive measures. Individuals, organizations, and governments must work together to create a culture of transparency, integrity, and accountability, where bribery has no place. By addressing the causes and consequences of bribery, societies can strive towards a more just and equitable future.