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The Guardian: EU aims to harmonise criminal laws across bloc to fight corruption

3-5-2023 |

The EU executive wants to harmonise criminal laws against corruption across the bloc, as part of a wide-ranging drive to tackle bribery, abuse of office and illicit enrichment.

Under a proposed draft directive, misappropriation of funds, trading influence, abuse of office, illicit enrichment and obstruction of justice in corruption cases would be harmonised criminal offences. Bribery is currently the only corruption offence criminalised at EU level.

The proposal would establish common definitions of corruption crimes in an effort to make it easier for police to cooperate in cross-border cases, a step seen as crucial in tackling organised crime, as most large criminal gangs are active in three or more countries.

Not all EU member states criminalise all forms of corrupt behaviour – illicit enrichment is an offence in only eight countries, a gap that leaves many EU countries falling short of UN-defined standards, according to EU officials.

Meanwhile, punishments vary widely across member states. Prison sentences for bribery in the public sector range from three months to 15 years; embezzlement in the private sector can lead to time in prison from three months to 20 years.

Under the proposal, member states would be required to have an anti-corruption agency and cooperate with a revamped EU anti-corruption network. The law, which would apply to public institutions and private companies, would also seek to end what EU officials see as “opaque” procedures for lifting immunity from prosecution for certain individuals.

The law would also seek to harmonise statutes of limitations, as short deadlines on prosecuting corruption suspects can stymie cross-border investigations into the most complex cases.

EU officials are confident of agreement on the law from all member states, including Hungary, where the government of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has been accused of presiding over the corrupt award of public contracts and state capture of independent investigatory and audit bodies. The commission thinks implementing the law, rather than agreeing it, will be the greater test.

Source: The Guardian