Acts of corruption and bribery create a threat to democratic institutions; they undermine the rule of law and economic development. Israel's commitment to fighting corruption and promoting normative values of honesty and integrity is longstanding, and Israel is committed to developing various mechanisms to help eradicate this phenomenon, in both the public and private sector. The battle against corruption and briery is of high priority to the Ministry of Justice.
On February 2009, and March 2009, accordingly, Israel acceded to the UN Convention against Corruption and the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
The basic concept at the core of the international commitment to combat corruption, including foreign bribery, is the idea that corruption is transnational. The shared belief is that illicit bribery acts inherently pose a great threat to good governance and economical development all over the world, while undermining free competition conditions in international business relations. Therefore, in order to maintain a continuing struggle against such a disturbing phenomenon and abolish it, a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach must be applied, with an emphasis on international cooperation. Joint action by the international community will facilitate an effective fight against global corruption.
Prior to acceding to both of these Conventions, on July 2008, the offence of bribery to a foreign public official was introduced to the Israeli Penal Law of (Article 291A).
The offence, according to Article 291A to the Penal Law, prohibits offering or paying a bribe to a foreign public official for the purpose of obtaining business activity or obtaining a direct advantage in its conclusion, for instance through bribing a foreign public official who can influence the business activity. The bribe can also be given for a vicarious promotion of the business activity, for example by paying a foreign public official for unlawful disclosure of information that can give the briber an advantage in obtaining a deal.
An Israeli businessman, including exporter, or an Israeli company, offering bribe to a foreign public official, even through intermediaries, run the risk of criminal prosecution in Israeli courts, as well as criminal proceedings in the foreign public official's home state.
The maximum penalty set for the offence of bribery of a foreign public official is seven years imprisonment and/or a fine. Natural persons can now be fined up to about 1.13 million ILS (approximately 221,000 EUR) - a fivefold increase of the previous applicable fine, or four times the benefit intended or obtained - whichever is higher. While Legal persons can be fined up to about 2.26 million ILS (approximately 443,000 EUR) - a tenfold increase of the previous fine, or four times the benefit intended or obtained - whichever is higher.
According to the law, in appropriate circumstances, both the corporation and its officers responsible for the commission of the offence, or involved in its commission, can be held liable for the foreign bribery offence.
The State of Israel is a part of the battle for creating an international climate that is free of corruption. Establishing the offence of bribery to a foreign public official is an important step in that direction, and has direct impact on the battle against corruption inside the State of Israel as well. This offence completes the internal legal framework and enhances Israel's ability to protect the honesty and integrity nationally.