What is corruption and why to fight it?

What is corruption ?

Corruption is the act by which a person provides or offers an undeserved advantage to lead a person to carry out an act that goes against his or her duties or depends on his or her discretionary powers. The act of soliciting or accepting such an advantage also falls within the definition of corruption.

Corruption can take many aspects: small gifts in anticipation of a future advantage, large sums of money, holidays to a purchasing manager, false invoices, etc.

For many Swiss companies operating abroad, corruption is a real problem. Obtaining a contract, an authorization, marketing a product are all important elements. In such situations, you might be made to understand that "greasing the palm" could facilitate many processes.

Why fight corruption ?

According to estimates from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the costs generated by corruption amount to 2,600 billion dollars (5% of world GDP) per year.

Above all, corruption has a very high economic and social cost. It increases inequalities in access to state benefits. It undermines social cohesion. It prevents transparency and distorts competition.

A Swiss company bribing a public official or private individual, in Switzerland or abroad, commits a criminal offence in Switzerland, punishable according to the Criminal Code (art. 322). Natural persons shall be sanctioned by deprivation of liberty or a pecuniary penalty. Companies that have "failed to take all reasonable and necessary measures to prevent" corruption will also be prosecuted and punished with a fine of up to five million francs.

A conviction for corruption leads to other consequences. The concerned company may be excluded from state service programmes or international projects. In addition, its reputation can be seriously damaged if investors, partners or the public learn that corruption has occurred. Finally, a company that corrupts is exposed to blackmail from those who are aware of it.

Specialist staff
Last modification 17.04.2020

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The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
International Investments and Multinational Enterprises Unit
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