The Regulations for Combating Bribery, published by Royal Decree M/36 dated 29/12/1412H, corresponding to 27/6/1992G (the “Bribery Regulations”), prohibit bribery of public officials in Saudi Arabia. Public workers and military officers are likewise prohibited from abusing their positions or utilizing their influence, including accepting bribes, under the Civil Service Regulations and the Military Officers Regulations, and they may be penalized or terminated if they do so. These provisions, however, do not impose any sanctions on anyone other than public officials or officers, unlike the Bribery Regulations.
Bribery is defined as the request or acceptance, as well as the offering or making, of any promise or gift by or to a public official in order to cause him or her to perform or fail to perform his or her official duties (whether or not to act or the failure to act is illegal).
The word “public official” is defined broadly to encompass the following individuals:
(a) Persons employed by the Saudi government or any public service, whether on a permanent or temporary basis
(b) Arbitrators or experts appointed by the Saudi government or any judicial authority.
Fines of up to SAR 1 million or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both, are possible penalties under the Bribery Regulations. They can be imposed on the person providing or providing the bribe, as well as the person seeking or accepting it. Pursuing topics with the government that are not within the scope of the public official’s official duties is penalized by a fine of up to SAR 200,000 and a maximum sentence of two years in prison. In both situations, the bribe will be seized as part of the punishment.
Companies and other businesses, whether Saudi or foreign, face fines of up to ten times the bribe’s value and, more importantly, may be barred from bidding for or participating in government projects if it is shown that a director or employee bribed for the company’s advantage.
Saudi Arabia has no political parties, and public officials are appointed by either the government or the king.
There are no statutory exclusions or limitations to the definition of bribery that apply to “hospitality expenses.” To determine whether an expense is likely to be regarded a bribe, each one must be assessed independently and in light of the surrounding circumstances.
Subject to certain exclusions, the Bribery Regulations do not apply to promises or gifts as defined, requested or accepted, and offered or made among private sector individuals. Technically, persons who work for joint stock companies and banks (whether or not they have any government ownership or other relationships with the government) are included in the definition of “public servant” in the Bribery Regulations, as a joint stock company is a fairly common form of doing business in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the Bribery Regulations apply to anyone rendering a “public service,” apparently even if they are not government employees. The Bribery Regulations do not define these terms, and they can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
Other theories of responsibility may apply, exposing anyone involved in fully private sector bribery to civil or even criminal culpability. Bribery is generally forbidden by Islamic Rule (the “Shari’ah”), Saudi Arabia’s supreme law, and though it is unclear whether civil or criminal penalties can be enforced in cases other than those involving public workers, Shari’ah law academics believe they can. Other Saudi statutes, such as the Labor, Competition, and Procurement Regulations and the Health Professions Law, include potential justifications for imposing liability for bribery in the private sector, including an aiding and abetting premise.
The Bribery Regulations provide a broad definition of the term “bribery.”
Bribery is defined as the promise or payment of money or any other benefit to a person who has power over “public” interests in order to achieve entitlements or prevent others from doing so.
Bribery is defined in the Health Professions Regulation as requesting, accepting, or receiving commissions or gratuities, or obtaining any benefits in exchange for the promotion of, or commitment to prescribe certain preparations, or for directing patients to a specific hospital or laboratory, or any other similar acts.
The penalties for private to private bribery, which is otherwise covered by the Bribery Regulations, are the same as those stated in Section 1.4.
Fines, confiscation of the bribe or reward, and termination of the bribe taker’s job are all possible punishment in Shari’ah.
See also Section 1.6, which covers the Shari’ah and the other requirements mentioned.
There are no rules in Saudi Arabia preventing or regulating the corruption of foreign public officials.
There are no statutory exclusions or limitations to the definition of bribery for “facilitation expenses,” whether public or private. To determine whether an expense is likely to be regarded a bribe, it must be analyzed on its own and in light of the surrounding facts.