Italian law criminalizes both private and public sector bribery. Under Italian law a court can impose fines and sentences up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The mens rea required for bribery offenses is always intent. For the person giving the bribe to be convicted, the Italian court must show that that person knew and intended to make an improper payment, promise or offer to a public official. In the event of payments made through intermediaries, for an offense to be found it must be established that the payment to the intermediary was made with the knowledge and intent of the intermediary to subsequently bribe the public official.

Under Italian law the definition of public official for the purpose of bribery offenses includes the following:

  1. anyone who performs public functions in a legislative, judicial or administrative capacity;
  2. anyone in charge of providing a public service, i.e. whoever performs a public service for whatever reason, where public service means an activity that is governed in the same way as a public function, except that the power vested in the latter is absent; the performance of basic ordinary tasks and exclusively manual work is excluded.

Bribery of foreign public officials is also punished. Italian case law has broadened the scope of the definition of public official to include any individual acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of (i) a national, regional or local government, (ii) an agency, department or instrumentality of the European Union or of an Italian or a non-Italian national, regional or local government, (iii) an Italian or a non-Italian government-owned or government-controlled or government-participated company, (iv) a public international organization such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations or the World Trade Organization, or (v) an Italian or a non-Italian political party, member of a political party official or candidate for political office.

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