No. XXXVIII (2016)

Foreign Nationals as Perpetrators of Bribery Offences in Poland. Foreign Nationals Convicted of Bribery – Penalties and Punitive Measure

Irena Rzeplińska
Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Department of Criminology

Published 2016-01-01


  • foreign nationals,
  • bribery offences,
  • bribery,
  • Poland,
  • punishment,
  • punitive measures

How to Cite

Rzeplińska, I. (2016). Foreign Nationals as Perpetrators of Bribery Offences in Poland. Foreign Nationals Convicted of Bribery – Penalties and Punitive Measure. Archives of Criminology, (XXXVIII), 175–189.


By the end of 2013, some 60,0000 citizens of EU Member States, and 121,000 third- -country nationals, holders of Polish residence permits, were registered in Poland. The aggregate number of foreign nationals who currently reside in Poland amounts to 0.5% of the country’s own population. Among the EU citizens, the most numerous are German, Italian, French, British, Bulgarian, and Spanish nationals. Among the non-EU nationals, the largest proportion of residents comes from Ukraine, Vietnam, Russian Federation, Belarus, China, Armenia, Turkey, India, USA, and South Korea; the Ukrainians making up by far the most populous group among them (i.e. 31% of all third-country nationals residing in Poland). Crime rate among foreign residents in Poland as gleaned from the police statistics on foreign offenders spanning 2004–2012 makes it clear that foreign suspects constitute ca. 1% to 0.43% in 2012 of the total number of suspects investigated. In the course of nine years, these crime dynamics (i.e. officially disclosed crime rate among foreign nationals in Poland) appeared to decline. In total, foreign nationals suspected of committing crimes in Poland come from of 61 countries, with EU citizens accounting for 1/3 of them, the remaining 2/3 originating from the third countries. The overall picture of offences perpetrated by foreign nationals in Poland in the period spanning 2004–2012 reveals some telltale characteristics of their prevalent structure. Firstly, a negligible proportion of human crime offences, secondly, a high proportion of specific crimes, e.g. driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whereupon, in the absence of a human victim, the only ‘aggravated’ party is the public order, and thirdly, a growing rate of foreigners suspected of having committed an offence against the credibility of documents. In the police statistics, foreign nationals suspected of committing offences under Articles 228, 229 and 230 of the Polish Penal Code make up 3.4% of all foreign suspects. Foreign nationals suspected of committing the offence of bribery under Article 229 of the Polish Penal Code, the actual subject matter of the study addressed in the paper, are foreign nationals convicted by Polish courts of law. Ninety-six criminal cases of bribery, originating in 2008–2013, which ended in convictions for foreign perpetrators, were randomly selected for the study. The issues of interest were as follows: the profiles of convicted foreigners, accompanying circumstances, general aetiology of the bribery offences committed by foreigners, the bribe recipients, convictions actually secured in a court of law against the perpetrators, and the types of punitive measures applied. Foreign nationals – perpetrators of bribery offences across Poland, originated from 17 countries. 81.3% of the studied population was made up of Ukrainians (41.7%), Belarussians (22.9%), Lithuanians (9.4%), and Russians (7.3%). Single cases were perpetrated by the citizens of Kazakhstan, Turkey, Sweden, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, China, Slovakia, Vietnam, Armenia, India, Czech Republic, and Germany. Men prevailed – ca. 10% of those convicted of bribery were women. The most numerous were perpetrators aged 32–40, while the remaining number of offenders was almost equally split amongst the following age brackets 41–50, 22–30, and 51–63 years; the oldest offenders being the least numerous. Two occupational groups clearly predominated: drivers and construction workers. Nonetheless, the perpetrators also included police officers, doctors, nurses, an office worker, and a teacher. The recipients of financial gains, i.e. those to whom the bribes were either handed out or offered, were police officers (48.9% of cases), border guards (31.3%), and customs service officers (15.6%). Individual cases comprise handing out a bribe to an official at the Registry Office (in connection with arranging for a fictitious marriage), public transport ticket inspector, and state railway security service officers. In the cases under study, two places for handing out bribes have been identified, i.e. border crossings (40.6% of cases) and public highways (51% of cases), where traffic police officers are offered material gain. In the vast majority of cases, it was money (amounts ranged from PLN 50.00 to over PLN 1,000.00). Every third perpetrator, a foreign national, was under the influence of alcohol when offering the bribe. The study of foreigners convicted of bribery in the years spanning 2008–2013 identifies two situations in which acts of corruption take place. The first one, driving under the influence of alcohol. Handing out material benefits to a traffic police officer, usually money, is intended to dissuade him from imposing a substantial fine, or from instigating criminal proceedings (prosecution), and consequently from an imposition of a ban on driving motor vehicles by a court of law. The other one, handing out financial benefits to Border Guard or Customs Service officers. When analysing the explanations provided by the perpetrators of bribery, how they tried to rationalise their attempts to corrupt public officials (the police, border guards, customs service officers), the investigators found that it all seemed to stem from a different legal culture in the societies they come from, i.e. a culture of open disregard for the law, public morality in which everything can be ‘sorted out,’ even if it means that the perpetrator effectively evades criminal liability. A public morality in which both parties, a public official and a citizen, conspire to circumvent the law. I am therefore inclined to brand the social background of origin of the 80% of foreign nationals convicted of bribery in Poland as ‘corruption-spawning communities,’ where in the relationship between a citizen and a government agency official it is perfectly natural to offer/accept a consideration for ‘sorting things out.’ Foreign nationals charged with bribery, except for a single case of conditional discontinuance of the proceedings in progress, were sentenced to fines and other punitive measures. A conditionally suspended term of imprisonment prevailed, followed closely by a fine. Apart from the actual penalties, the courts also applied selected punitive measures, such as driving bans, cash considerations, forfeiture of items originating directly from the offence, forfeiture of items actually used, or intended for use in the perpetration of an offence. Immediate custodial sentence was imposed in three cases, i.e. in convictions for several offences, such as bribery, driving under the influence of alcohol, and assaulting a public official.


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