In an article published in Apertura magazine on February 2, 2016, a sad reality for our country was highlighted: 7 out of 10 companies are unaware of anti-corruption rules (the “denial” of companies about this issue is a matter that deserves a comprehensive discussion to achieve the necessary awareness by the national business community). The article also noted that “an act of bribery abroad, carried out under the previously explained cases (U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977), is liable to sanctions that will be applied in the USA”.
Taking this comment as a trigger, we thought it would be useful to make a brief review on this issue, given that these acts cannot only be punished in the US; they have specific sanctions provided for in our area too. Since this publication is widely regarded by enterprises and entrepreneurs, this seems the perfect space to raise awareness on this matter, since 70% of the respondents in the sector are not correctly informed about it.
Indeed, by virtue of the fact that several International Conventions on the subject have been ratified by Argentina and included as internal regulations, our country is committed to punishing international corruption, bribery and money laundering; also assuming the commitment to extradite those responsible. Thus, for example, the Inter-American Convention on Corruption was ratified by Law No. 24.759 (1997), where it was specifically established that these offences are extraditable. Then, the Convention on Bribery of Foreign Public Officials was ratified by Law No. 25.319 (2000), which included clauses on jurisdiction, extradition and money laundering (this regulations amended the Public Ethics Act No. 25.188).
Finally, the new Section 258 bis was included in the Penal Code by Act No. 25.825 (2003), with penalties ranging from 1 to 6 years of imprisonment for “whoever offers, directly or indirectly, a public official from another State or from an international public organization, whether for their own benefit or for the benefit of others, sums of money or any object of pecuniary value, or other benefits, such as gifts, favors, promises or advantages, in order that the said official acts or refrains from acting in the exercise of his official duties, related to a transaction of economic or commercial nature”.
Under the conditions described, and in accordance with the outlined regulations, cases involving bribery, gifts, etc. (corruption, in general) by a national official (natural person or legal entity) to an official from another sovereign state or from international public organizations (IMF, for example) can be brought before a court in our country and in accordance with our laws. Moreover, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, those responsible can be legally extradited for trial abroad in accordance with the regulations of the demanding State (extending the local jurisdiction under the international agreements ratified by Argentina). It is clear, however, that they cannot be prosecuted in both countries, either simultaneously or consecutively.
Returning to the trigger, we understand that the national entrepreneur’s awareness on this issue is urgent; it can clearly lead to disastrous consequences, both for the business organization and for the directors and executive officers thereof. For further clarification, we suggest you consult the company’s Compliance Officer (if any) and specialized professionals on the subject. To solve risk situations on time can result in a very significant saving and can avoid serious personal consequences for directors and shareholders of the companies involved.
Octavio Aráoz de Lamadrid
Attorney specialized in Criminal Law and Corporate Compliance