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What is "Cohecho" in Spanish Criminal Law?


In the context of Spanish criminal law, "cohecho" (translated as bribery in this post) refers to a crime that involves corrupt acts within the sphere of public administration. This offense is governed by Articles 419 to 427 bis of the Penal Code and is considered a direct attack on the integrity of the public administration and public trust in its institutions.


Passive Bribery:

Passive bribery refers to the conduct of public officials who, for their own benefit or on behalf of third parties, accept bribes, gifts, favors, or other forms of compensation in exchange for performing acts that go against the inherent duties of their office. These acts may include actions contrary to the law or ethics, as well as the unjustified omission of acts that they should carry out in the exercise of their functions. Passive bribery is divided into two categories:

  1. Proper Bribery: Occurs when the public official performs actions contrary to the law or their duties for the benefit of third parties in exchange for personal bribes or compensation.

  2. Improper Bribery: Involves the solicitation or acceptance of bribes or compensation in exchange for performing acts that are legal and within the scope of their office but should not be subject to compensation.

Penalties for passive bribery can vary in severity depending on the nature and scope of the offense but typically include imprisonment, fines, and disqualification from holding public office for a specified period.


Active Bribery:

Active bribery, on the other hand, relates to the conduct of individuals or private individuals who offer or provide bribes, gifts, or other forms of compensation to public officials with the purpose of influencing the exercise of their functions. In other words, private individuals seek to obtain favorable treatment or specific actions from public officials through bribes or favors. Penalties for active bribery are similar to those for passive bribery and may include imprisonment and fines.


Absolute Excuse:

Article 426 of the Penal Code establishes an absolute excuse for active bribery. This means that if a private individual occasionally accedes to a request for a bribe or compensation by a public official and reports the incident to the authorities within two months from the date of the events, they may be exempt from punishment.


Responsibility of Legal Entities:

Since the reform of the Penal Code in 2015, legal entities can also be criminally liable for bribery committed on their behalf or by their administrators or legal representatives. Penalties for legal entities may include substantial fines, dissolution of the entity, closure of premises and establishments, and other measures aimed at preventing and penalizing corporate corruption.


In summary, bribery in Spanish criminal law is a crime that addresses corruption in public administration and corrupt practices involving public officials and private individuals. Spanish legislation takes a strong stance against corruption and imposes significant penalties on those engaged in bribery activities.

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