24 March 2017

Conviction in bribery actions against Atea  

The Eastern High Court has delivered convictions in two bribery actions where Atea gave away iPhones, iPads and other IT equipment to two senior employees at the City of Copenhagen and DSB.

In the period when these offences took place, the employees were employed in senior positions with the City of Copenhagen and DSB. From 2010 to 2012, the employees received iPhones, iPads and other IT equipment from Atea.

In December 2016, the Copenhagen City Court found that the employees were guilty of having accepted bribes - a conviction which they subsequently appealed to the Eastern High Court claiming acquittal.

NO AUTHORITY TO MAKE DECISIONS

The employees gave supplementary statements before the Eastern High Court. They explained that they had not been authorised to make decisions concerning purchase of IT equipment. However, both employees had influence on IT purchases through their senior positions - one was part of the team responsible for preparing and conducting tender procedures.

PROVIDING TEST EQUIPMENT WAS NOT UNUSUAL

The employees explained that some of the IT equipment in question had been provided for the purpose of the employees testing the products. They noted that it was normal within this line of business that suppliers made their products available to customers for testing so that they would buy the products later. In this connection, one of the employees had given a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone to his 19-year old son to test whether the phone could handle the son's rough handling.

During the hearing before the Eastern High Court, a witness from Atea confirmed that it was not unusual for Atea to provide major customers with test equipment. This test equipment was not registered with Atea, and, often, the equipment was not returned as it no longer had any sales value for Atea.

The employees noted that, in a number of situations, they had asked for invoices concerning the IT equipment, but in vain.

THE EASTERN HIGH COURT CHANGES THE COPENHAGEN CITY COURT CONVICTION

The Eastern High Court ruled that the employees had accepted bribes from Atea by way of iPhones, iPads and IT equipment worth at least DKK 24,000 and DKK 15,000. 

The employees were convicted under section 144 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits persons in public positions from accepting bribes. 

When fixing the sentence, the Eastern High Court took into account that, in most situations, the employees had been active themselves as regards receiving the IT products, and that they both held senior positions with an overall responsibility for IT.

Considering the period passed since the offences were committed and the value of the unlawful advantages, the Eastern High Court found that it was not required to enforce the prison sentences. There was no information about any other matters being contrary to the employees' duties.

On the other hand, the Eastern High Court found that, considering the employee's senior positions, purely suspended sentences would not be sufficient. Consequently, the employees were given suspended sentences plus community service. 

The Eastern High Court thereby changed the Copenhagen City Court conviction. The Copenhagen City Court had ruled that the employees had accepted bribes worth DKK 43,359 and DKK 15,835.34, and they were given unsuspended sentences of four months and 60 days.

BRIBERY IS TAKEN SERIOUSLY, SO BE CAREFUL 

Even though the Eastern High Court changed the conviction from unsuspended to suspended prison plus community service, the conviction is still a good example that bribery is a serious violation of the Criminal Code. 

It is important to note that even within lines of businesses where it is usual for selected employees to receive test products, these have to be careful. To the extent that it is possible and legal to keep the products against payment, payment must take place - if not, the products must be returned after a reasonable test period. It is for the employees in question to make sure that they are not subject to bribery.

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