Soon, offering a bribe in Slovakia will officially be a crime.
On July 6, the Slovak parliament passed a wide-ranging amendment to the Criminal Code designed mainly to help the government crack down on economic and organized crime. The amendment, which will make the Slovak legal system more acceptable to its EU neighbours, also defined new crimes, making offering a bribe and possessing child pornography illegal for the first time in Slovakia's history.
The amendment, which will take effect on September 1, makes important changes in three main areas of the Criminal Code. The first change establishes a special agency charged with helping uncover organised crime activities through infiltration into criminal groups. Agents will be permitted by law to offer bribes to help to reveal corruption. To avoid internal abuses, the law also sets limits on an agent's powers, warning that his impunity will be forfeit if his actions cause a more serious crime than that which he was investigating; for example, if he causes death to another person.
Secondly, the amendment introduces tougher penalties for different crimes and defines some crimes for the first time. It punishes those who guide illegal immigrants across state borders with a jail term of three months to five years if the guide is a member of an organised group. Collecting of so-called protection money is to be punished by three to 15 years in jail. Bribery and abuse of one's professional position is liable to be punished by two years in jail or by a fine. Tax evasion and evasion of health insurance premiums will be punished by one to five years, or by two to eight years if the crime is committed repeatedly.
Tax evasion and tunnelling of companies belong to the third area covered by the amendment, which deals with new forms of white collar crime. Intentional and fraudulent bankruptcy of a company will be punished by three years in jail or by a ban on business activities by the guilty party. Intentional bankruptcy of a legal entity will also be considered a crime.
In an interview with The Slovak Spectator on July 7, Daniel Lipšic, head of office at the Ministry of Justice, said that "the amendment is intended to adjust the Criminal Code to the new situation [in Slovakia] and also to adhere to general legal principles respected by the developed countries of Europe."
"We needed the Amendment not only for updating our Criminal code but also for making it more specific and clear in cases where the former classifications were much too vague," said Lipšic. "We are especially proud of the introduction of special agents, following models which exist in Germany and the US," he added.
The amendment will give the police far more power to control bribery, which has flourished in the post-communist era. Previously, only accepting a bribe was considered a crime, which made prosecuting bribery difficult.
"Last year only twelve cases of bribery were revealed and punished by courts in Slovakia. This figure, however, falls far short of reflecting the real situation in our country," Lipšic said.
To prepare the Amendment, specialists from the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry cooperated with legal experts from the Supreme Court and with representatives of the Slovak Police, Lipšic said. In parliament, 81 deputies voted for the Amendment and 10 refrained from voting.
With TASR reports
26. Jul 1999 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárova