Our team has been following parliamentary works regarding unexpected and significant amendments to the Criminal Code regarding corruption and economic crimes. The Polish Parliament accepted the final version of the amendments on 13 June, and the law now only requires the President’s signature. The amendment is expected to enter into force three months from the date of its publication (with one exception).
Increased liability for crimes involving corruption
The amendment increases the liability for crimes involving corruption by both broadening the circle of responsible persons and increasing the penalties. The list of persons in relation to whom the granting and accepting of benefits is a crime, as well as the bribery of a civil servant, has been extended to the higher management of various entities (which has not yet been directly covered by the Criminal Code) i.e.:
- companies with the State or local government as the majority capital shareholder (either directly or indirectly)
- domestic organizations
- state-owned companies
In particular, the term ‘domestic organizations’ raises doubts – it is an extremely ambiguous and very broad term, and in our view it especially covers entities such as commercial chambers, associations, foundations, political parties or trade unions, so a number of organizations from the private sector.
Additionally, the penalties for crimes involving corruption have been increased to, among others, 15 and 20 years of imprisonment, depending on the value of the benefit that was granted or promised to be granted. The amendment is also highly controversial with regards to the basic rules of criminal liability, and it also provides increasing penalties for acting to the detriment of a company.
Public procurement – is it risky?
The liability for crimes related to organizing a tender has also been broadened. A person who impedes or thwarts a tender no longer has to act to achieve an advantage, and the damage can only affect the public interest. This means that many activities related to the organization and conduct of a tender could potentially be a crime. In order to avoid liability, it will be necessary to verify in detail which data is required and which data cannot be disclosed in the tender. In our opinion, this will negatively affect the relationship between the ordering party and bidders and the organization of tenders as a whole.
The amendment as a whole will be comprehensively assessed as a very significant change for all participants on the market. These changes require a significant verification of the existing anti-corruption policies and procedures for essentially all entities operating on the market.