France - Corruption
Corruption is largely a taboo issue in France. Neither government nor independent researchers have conducted any comprehensive and empirically based analyses of the phenomenon in the recent past. In addition, the French government does not report publicly on organised crime, and academic research is very limited. The information available publicly nevertheless provides sufficient evidence that in certain geographic (Corsica, large cities, or South-Eastern France) or economic areas (public utility contracts, energy, real-estate, or defence sectors) corruption is often encountered.
If society as a whole is honest, people are willing to trust individuals whom tney haven't heard to be corrupt; individuals therefore have an incentive to invest in a reputation for honesty. In contrast, in a corrupt society, the general suspicion makes honesty a low-yield investment and distrust is indeed justified. France has laws, regulations and penalties that effectively combat acts of corruption committed in France. A 1993 law established a Central Service for the Prevention of Corruption under the aegis of the Ministry of Justice. The French judiciary is responsible for prosecution, and is active in doing so.
At the lower level of organised crime, police (information leaking, or direct involvement in OC activities) and local authorities (regarding public contracts) are most often targeted by criminals. At the higher level, judicial corruption and undue political influence over the criminal justice process occur in relation to financial and corporate crimes. The scale of the corruption problem remains unclear due to lack of data. In Corsica, parliamentary reports indicate that the problem is commensurate with the one in mafia-affected regions of Italy.
Transparency International (TI) ranks countries from cleanest (number 1) to least clean (number 168); France ranked 23rd on TI’s 2015 corruption perceptions index, but maintains that France continues to face corruption challenges in certain areas. According to Transparency International’s chapter in France, the sectors most affected by corrupt practices are public works and the defense industry. TI France () works with French companies of all sizes to discourage and avoid corruption when investing in foreign countries. In April 2016, the French parliament began debating a bill (nicknamed “Sapin 2”) that would reorganize its anti-corruption mechanism around a new anti-corruption agency. The U.S. embassy in Paris has received no specific complaints from U.S. firms of unfair competition or investment obstacles due to corrupt practices in France in recent years.
France became party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in 2000 and to the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2003. The Phase 3 report on France by the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Transactions published in October 2012 chastised France for the very small number of convictions for bribery of foreign public officials (four individuals but no company) and suggested that it is partly due to the fact that victims of foreign bribery (except corruption occurring within the EU) are prohibited from being civil parties to proceedings and initiating criminal cases. The Working Group further called for stricter limits on national security confidentiality, a point also recently cited by the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). At the same time, the OECD Working Group welcomed the greater independence of public prosecutors and the efficacy of the French anti-money laundering authority Tracfin in reporting cases.
In February 2015, the OECD chastised France for the significant rise in the number of acquittals, dismissals and case closures. As mentioned above, a bill that parliament had begun debating in April 2016 would create a new anti-corruption agency.
The Central Office for the Prevention of Corruption (Service Central de Prévention de la Corruption or SCPC) is responsible for combating corruption. The SCPC is an inter-ministerial agency formally attached to the French Ministry of Justice. Established by Law 93-122 (January 29, 1993) on the prevention of corruption and the transparency of business and public procedures, its main role is to collect information regarding corruption-related offences and use it to prevent corruption.
As part of that mandate, the SCPC publishes an annual report providing detailed statistics on corruption-related offenses and convictions. In its latest report, the agency called for the introduction of a legal requirement for large companies to implement an anti-corruption program similar to that imposed on businesses under the 2010 UK Bribery Act. A 1968 French law referred to as the “blocking statute” prohibits the communication of economic, commercial, industrial, financial or technical information or documents as part of foreign judicial proceedings, but the SCPC has served as a conduit (a role it would like to be formalized in an amendment to the blocking statute) between French companies and foreign bodies like the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
French magistrates launched a probe in December 2006 of officials from French oil company Total for the bribery of foreign civil servants, a criminal offence in France subsequent to the GOF's 2000 ratification of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and enactment of related implementing legislation. The OECD Anti-Bribery Conventions are enforced via amendments to the Criminal code, which have been integrated into Articles 435-3 and 435-4 of a new chapter on international corruption (Chapter V, Title III, Book IV). Article 435-3 incriminates the offer or promise of a bribe, but not the actual payment of a bribe, which is explicitly mentioned in the convention. Furthermore, there is a difference in the treatment of victims of bribery, depending on whether the bribery is domestic, EU or foreign. In cases of bribery of GOF/EU officials, any victim may initiate prosecution. In cases involving the bribery of other foreign government officials, criminal proceedings may be initiated only by the public prosecutor on the basis of a complaint from a Government official in the country where the bribery took place.
The OECD Anti-Bribery convention is further enforced via amendments to the Tax Code and to the Code of Criminal Procedure. Article 39-2 of the French Tax Code puts an end to the tax deductibility of bribes as of the entry into force in France of the Convention (September 29, 2000). Finally, Article 706-1 of the amended Code of Criminal Procedure provides that acts criminalized by the OECD Convention will be prosecuted in the Economic and Financial Unit of the Paris Court of Justice.
In July 2007, French Parliament approved the additional protocol to the Council of Europe's criminal convention on corruption. There have been no specific complaints from U.S. firms of unfair competition or investment obstacles due to corrupt practices in France in recent years.
The inspector general of national police and the Inspectorate of the National Gendarmerie actively investigated and prosecuted allegations of police and gendarme corruption. Citizens may report police abuses on the internet through the Ministry of Interior’s website, provided they identify themselves. In 2015 citizens registered 2,958 reports online.
The president, members of the parliament and the European Parliament, ministers, regional and departmental council heads, mayors of larger communities, and directors of state-owned companies (post office, railway, and telephone) are required to declare their personal assets to the Commission for the Financial Transparency of Political Life at the beginning and end of their terms. The commission issued and made available to the public periodic reports on officials’ financial holdings on a discretionary basis at least once every three years. Officials who fail to comply are subject to sanctions.
The Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Crimes investigates offenses including tax fraud, influence peddling, and failure of elected officials to make financial disclosures or report their own violations of the law.
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