Government Submits Amendments to the Penal Code to Establish Offence of Illicit Enrichment and Other New Offences of Corruption

 

The Government has today finalized a Bill to amend Act Number 9/2014 (Penal Code of the Maldives) to establish as criminal offences, illicit enrichment; embezzlement, misappropriation or other diversion of property by a public official; trading in influence; and bribery of foreign public officials and officials of international organizations.

The Bill proposes to amend the existing offence of Bribery of a National Public Official, to bring it in line with the requirements of the UN Convention against Corruption in addition to introducing the following new offences:

Illicit enrichment

One of the main purposes of the Penal Code Amendment Bill is to establish as a criminal offence, illicit enrichment by a public official. That is, a significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.

Criminalizing the offence of illicit enrichment is a key pledge of the Government and a Bill to that effect was submitted to Parliament in December 2018 as part of the first 100 day pledges of the Government which however lapsed when the term of the then Parliament expired in 2019.

Embezzlement, misappropriation or other diversion of property by a public official

The Bill also proposes to establish as criminal offences, the embezzlement, misappropriation or other diversion by a public official for his or her benefit or for the benefit of another person or entity, of any funds or property entrusted to the public official by virtue of his or her position.

Trading in influence

Another offence that the Bill proposes to criminalize is trading in influence. That is, using a public official’s influence to obtain for himself or herself or a third person, an undue advantage from a State authority. It covers both the promise, offering or giving of an undue advantage to a public official as well as the solicitation or acceptance of an undue advantage by a public official.

Bribery of foreign public officials and officials of international organizations

The promise, offering or giving to a foreign public official or an official of an international organization of an undue advantage for the official himself or herself or another person or entity, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her official duties, in order to obtain or retain business or other undue advantage in relation to the conduct of international business is also proposed to be established as a criminal offence.

The above offences are classified as Class 3 Felonies except in the case of illicit enrichment, which when committed by high-ranking public officials such as the President, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and Judges is classified as a Class 2 Felony.