In Turkey, the fight against corruption and bribery is governed by a framework that includes the Criminal Code, the Law on Misconduct, the Law on Bribery and Corruption, and the Regulation on Ethical Principles and Application Procedures and Principles for Public Servants.
Regarding corruption in Turkey, The Criminal Code outlines specific actions that constitute corruption-related offenses, encompassing acts such as embezzlement or the misuse of authority by public officials. Additionally, it addresses collusion between private individuals and government officials in forms like bribery and bid-rigging, all with the aim of illicitly gaining advantages.
The jurisdiction of the Criminal Code extends broadly, allowing it to cover corruption-related crimes across various territorial boundaries. Turkey has also ratified several international anti-corruption conventions, including those by the Council of Europe, the OECD, and the United Nations, solidifying its commitment to combatting corruption.
One of the most prevalent forms of corruption-related crimes involves bribery, where both government officials and private entities are often involved. Under Turkish law, bribery occurs when a private individual directly or indirectly offers or provides something of value to a government official or someone designated by the official with the intent to influence their actions or decisions. It is also considered bribery when a government official solicits or accepts something of value in exchange for their performance or non-performance of public and legal duties. The Criminal Code applies to bribes offered to or received by Turkish and foreign government officials, as well as officials or representatives of international or supranational organizations.
Bribery is a punishable offense, carrying a prison sentence that can range from 4 to 12 years, with the court having the discretion to adjust the term based on the circumstances of each case and the defendant’s involvement. Importantly, criminal liability is personal in Turkey and applies to individuals rather than corporate entities. Consequently, corporate corruption can only be prosecuted by pursuing the corporation’s executives or board members. If found guilty, these individuals, or the entire board in cases where identifying individual executives is not feasible, may face imprisonment.
The Criminal Code incorporates leniency provisions for individuals who report bribes or other corrupt activities to authorities before an investigation commences, except in the case of bribing foreign officials.
Individuals who possess knowledge of any criminal offense are mandated by the Criminal Code to report it to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Failure to report may result in imprisonment for up to one year, while public officials who neglect this duty may face imprisonment ranging from six months to two years.
Moreover, the Law on Money Laundering obliges parties involved in a transaction to report any information, suspicion, or reasonable grounds to suspect that an asset involved in the transaction has been acquired through illegal means or is being used for unlawful purposes. Such reports must be made to the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK in Turkish). Parties involved in transactions include entities operating in banking, insurance, private pensions, capital markets, money lending, and other financial sectors.
MASAK regularly issues guidelines for reporting suspicious transactions, ensuring that obligated parties have a unified approach to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Regardless of the transaction’s amount, obligated parties must report a suspicious transaction to MASAK within 10 business days of the transaction raising suspicion.
The Criminal Code also introduces non-criminal sanctions as a preventive measure. This includes imposing monetary fines under the Law on Misconduct or revoking licenses required for specific operations against corporate entities that have benefited from corruption-related crimes. Certain sectors, such as energy, have regulations that restrict the participation of officers and board members who have been convicted of corruption-related offenses under the Criminal Code.
In a recent development on November 17, 2022, MASAK introduced regulations concerning “persons with public influence” in the fight against money laundering. According to this regulation, financial institutions, specific non-financial businesses and professions, and crypto asset service providers must take measures to ascertain whether the customer or beneficial owner holds a position of public influence. Pursuant to Law No. 5549 on the Prevention of Laundering Proceeds of Crime, the procedures and principles governing these enhanced measures against persons with public influence are to be implemented by obligated parties.
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