Bribery threatens to go to prison: Traffic light parties are tightening the “bribery paragraph”

Bribery could result in jail
Traffic light parties tighten the “bribe money paragraph”

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Politicians who use their position to enrich themselves are particularly damaging to the population’s sense of justice. In recent years, some cases have become public. The traffic light parties are now tightening the legal situation. For those convicted, this can end in prison.

According to the wishes of the traffic light factions in the Bundestag, bribery and corruption of members of parliament should be punished more severely in the future. The members of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP approved a bill that provides for up to three years in prison or a fine for such cases. This should also apply when members of parliament use their position and the relationships they owe to their mandate to do business on the side. This is to be achieved through a corresponding amendment to the Criminal Code.

So far, this only provides for penalties if members of parliament receive money or other benefits for certain behavior when exercising their mandate, for example for a speech or specific voting behavior in the Bundestag. Now criminal liability is to be extended to cases that have nothing to do with the actual work in parliament.

With the planned tightening of the law, the SPD, Greens and FDP are reacting primarily to the mask scandals of former CSU representatives. In the early phase of the corona pandemic, they collected millions in commissions for brokering mask deals. They could do that will not be punished under the current legal situation. That should change. The draft law for this is available to the German Press Agency in Berlin. The “Bild” newspaper and “Politico” first reported on it.

Another example is the so-called Azerbaijan affair. Two former CDU/CSU MPs are currently having to stand trial for bribery and corruption of elected officials. The aim of the payments was to influence decisions in favor of Azerbaijan in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The law should also apply outside of parliament

“Our citizens must have the confidence that members of parliament are working for the common good and not for their own wallets,” said the parliamentary manager of the SPD parliamentary group, Johannes Fechner, about the tightening of the law. His FDP colleague Stephan Thomae emphasized: “Anyone who abuses their mandate to enrich themselves must not go unpunished. In the future, this should not only apply to the direct exercise of the mandate, but also if the position as a mandate holder is outside of Parliament is used for one’s own profit.”

The Green right-wing politician Canan Bayram spoke of a “bribery paragraph” and added: “When MPs exploit their position to enrich themselves, they damage the population’s trust in the integrity of political processes and promote disillusionment with democracy.”

Union sees no need for action

The Union faction received cautious and even negative signals. “I don’t see any need for action in this area now,” said its First Parliamentary Managing Director Thorsten Frei. He pointed out that after the mask affair, the parliamentary law had already been fundamentally changed.

The SPD, Greens and FDP had agreed in their coalition negotiations to tighten the rules. “We will make the criminal offense of bribery and bribery of members of parliament more effective,” it says in the coalition agreement.

The fact that this has so far been a long time coming has repeatedly led to criticism. Germany remained in ninth place in the “Corruption Perception Index 2023” by the organization Transparency International. When it comes to the fight against corruption, the deputy chairwoman of Transparency Germany, Margareta Bause, complained when she presented the report at the end of January. The organization complained that there were still loopholes in the criminal prosecution of bribery of members of parliament.

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