Turkey: Anti-Corruption Climate in Turkey: A Quick Guide for Multinational Companies

The Current Legal Landscape and Major Areas of Risk Exposure Based on Practical Experience

As an emerging market, Turkey is rightly considered to be a business and commercial hub for the EMEA region, as well as an important market for many multinational companies. In 2017, Turkey received a score of 40 points in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, on a scale of 0 ("highly corrupt") to 100 ("very clean"). As this score is relatively closer to the lower end of the scale and since Turkey's anti-corruption efforts are an ongoing progress and its related legislation is continuously evolving, multinational companies that are currently active in Turkey (or will be in the future) should keep themselves well-informed about the local anti-corruption climate and strive to stay up-to-date about any new developments. This will enable multinationals to take precautionary measures that could mitigate their liabilities under extraterritorial legislative anti-corruption regimes, such as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the UK Bribery Act (UKBA), as well as relevant domestic laws in Turkey.

Firstly, in order to keep pace with the recent international developments in this field, Turkey has passed up-to-date anti-corruption legislation and it has also signed and ratified all territorially applicable international treaties regarding anti-corruption, including the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The main domestic legislation that is applicable to acts of corruption is the Turkish Criminal Code No. 5237 (Criminal Code), which prohibits bribery, malversation, malfeasance and embezzlement. Apart from the Criminal Code, there are also a few other legislative regulations dealing with the prevention of corruption, such as the Turkish Criminal Procedure Law No. 5271, the Law No. 657 on Public Officials, and the Law No. 5326 on Misdemeanors. Furthermore, in 2016, Turkey finally ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism. Additionally, to bolster the fight against corruption, the Turkish Prime Minister published Circular No. 2016/10 on Increasing Transparency and Strengthening the Fight Against Corruption in 2016, following the expiration of the Strategy on Increasing Transparency and the Strengthening of the Fight Against Corruption. This Circular sets forth a number of precautions aimed at increasing prevention, as well as certain precautions aimed at strengthening the enforcement of sanctions. Moreover, the Circular introduces various provisions that focus on enhancing social awareness. Overall, the Circular's directives and precautions mainly seek to regulate the rules of ethical behavior for public officials and attempt to remove the obstacles to their adjudication.

Turkey also participated in several international anti-corruption initiatives through its membership in the Group of States against Corruption, which oversees the compliance of these states with the anti-corruption standards put forth by the Council of Europe. As a result, Turkey's anti-corruption legislation was amended to bring it in line with international standards in this regard. Consequently, Turkey has since (i) increased sentences for the crime of bribery; (ii) criminalized offering, promising, or requesting bribes, directly or indirectly; (iii) criminalized bribery of foreign public officials; (iv) broadened the scope of the definition of "foreign public officials"; and (v) imposed administrative liabilities on corporations whose representatives or persons acting on their behalf commit the offence of bribery.

Currently, only real persons are considered to be the main perpetrators of a crime under the Criminal Code, as Article 20 of the Criminal Code plainly states that criminal liability is personal and further declares that criminal sanctions may not be imposed against legal persons. In other words, the Criminal Code accepts the principle of "personal criminal liability," which has been challenged and debated over the years, although any relevant amendments are yet to be enacted. Moreover, it should be noted that the Turkish legal system does not accommodate non-prosecution or deferred prosecution agreements, nor does it allow compliance programmes to serve as mitigating factors.

However, this is not to suggest that companies are entirely off the hook when it comes to anti-corruption. As mentioned above, under Turkish law, companies can be held civilly or administratively liable. Accordingly, the Law No. 5326 on Misdemeanors foresees and sets forth administrative fines against firms whose corporate organs or representatives commit the crimes of bribery or bid-rigging (among other prohibited acts listed under the relevant article) for the benefit of the corporation while they were acting within the scope of the activities of the corporation. Furthermore, various security measures can also be imposed upon corporations, such as (i) invalidation of a license granted by a public authority, (ii) seizure of goods used in the omission of (or that result from) a crime committed by the representatives of the legal entity, or (iii) seizure of pecuniary/financial benefits arising from (or provided for) the commission of the crime.

Schemes Multinationals May Consider to Prevent or Mitigate Corporate Risk

Turkey is a sensitive region for conducting business when it comes to compliance issues. It is important to note that there is no specific government agency that is tasked with and responsible for enforcing anti-corruption laws in Turkey; therefore, the judiciary has full and exclusive powers to apply the provisions stipulated under the relevant laws in relation to anti-corruption laws and regulations.

Under Turkish law, companies are not required to set up compliance programmes and the existence of a compliance programme is not considered to be a mitigating factor. However, keeping Turkey's distinctive cultural context in mind, maintaining such a programme would always be prudent and considered an asset for a multinational company. As such, companies are advised to adapt their compliance programmes to the Turkish jurisdiction, as it is critical to understand that the culture, as well as the business environment, of the relevant jurisdiction plays a significant role in determining the shape of its anti-corruption scene. For example, there is a long-standing and widespread culture of hospitality and gift-giving in Turkey and this culture cannot be changed or transformed by merely instructing employees not to engage in such acts when doing business. Rather, a company that seeks to prevent such gift-giving would need to lay down written rules on the subject, carefully train its employees, conduct comprehensive audits and enforce disciplinary measures when the applicable rules are broken, in order to foster a culture of compliance. In this respect, it is highly advisable to use the local language in the employee training sessions, as what employees could consider to be cultural practices (i.e., gift-giving and paying for entertainment expenses) may constitute corruption under the relevant laws and it is important to avoid any language-related misunderstandings in this regard. Acquiring companies should also carefully review the gift-giving, travel and meal expenses that are incurred in relation to third parties and dig deeper to uncover the exact nature of such expenses where necessary. (This is particularly important since the Criminal Code does not differentiate in any way between facilitating payments and bribes. Accordingly, any gifts, travel expenses, or payments for meals or entertainment could potentially be deemed as bribery under Turkish laws.)

Therefore, multinational companies (especially acquiring companies) are encouraged to devise and implement compliance programmes aimed at detecting and preventing possible unlawful acts, which will raise awareness among employees about combating corruption. Moreover, such companies should bear in mind that one of the biggest mistakes they can make is to simply adopt and incorporate a global compliance programme without adapting it first to the particular needs and characteristics of the local compliance climate in which the company operates. As a result, the global compliance programme may fail to serve as a sufficient robust deterrent against corruption or as an adequate tool for detecting and preventing such corrupt activities. Another crucial step towards securing a corruption-free business environment, which goes hand-in-hand with the compliance programme, is proper employee training. Employee training should include a clear definition of what constitutes corruption, explain the risks and consequences of corrupt acts, and incorporate real-life examples to deter employees from engaging in such acts. Finally, employee training programmes should also inform employees about the various requests and offers that they might receive from third parties (i.e., bribes, gifts, kickbacks, etc.) and how to deal with such requests and offers, which they should ignore/decline and also consider reporting to their supervisors, where appropriate.

Companies would also be well-advised to set up control and monitoring mechanisms to supervise the implementation of their anti-corruption policies. Periodic audits and implementing whistleblower protection procedures are some of the methods that can be used to control/monitor whether anti-corruption policies are being carried out in an effective manner. It is also advisable that corporate guidelines clearly indicate how and whom to approach in case of a suspected act of corruption.

Currently, there is no legislation or guideline in Turkish law that mandates self-disclosure as a mitigating factor for either real persons or legal persons. Thus, whether or not a judicial authority should consider the voluntary disclosure of facts as a mitigating factor is left entirely to the discretion of the judge adjudicating the case file. Companies should also keep in mind that self-disclosure itself carries the risk of "spillover" to other jurisdictions where the disclosure may pose certain legal hazards. Therefore, companies should take utmost care when transmitting such sensitive information to the public authorities. Having said that, it should be noted that the Turkish criminal system does provide a leniency mechanism, which allows and incentivizes companies to self-disclose violations in exchange for reduced penalties. For the crime of bribery, the Turkish criminal system suggests that a person who gives or receives a bribe, but who then informs the investigating authorities about the bribe before an investigation has been launched, should not be punished for the crime of bribery. However, this rule does not apply to persons who offer a bribe to a foreign public official.

Case Studies: Recent Anti-corruption Cases and Decisions

Within the past year, a number of anti-corruption cases and investigations have been initiated against individuals rather than private companies. In one case relating to the charge of bribing public officials, a total of 46 people (including 15 public officials) were taken into custody due to bribery allegations. According to the allegations, the suspects had paid bribes between the amounts of 200 Turkish Lira (approx. 40 EUR) and 10,000 Turkish Lira (approx. 2,000 EUR) in order to facilitate the processing of their requests at the Title Deed Directorate (the Turkish equivalent of the Land Registry). The suspects used coded phrases such as "I brought the fig" and "I left your goods at the bakery" to signal and indicate the bribe payments. 14 people, including six public officials, were subsequently arrested in connection with the case.

In another investigation, an inspector at the Istanbul Provincial Directorate of the Social Security Administration was arrested on the grounds of requesting bribes from a shoe manufacturing company. Upon inspecting the shoe factory and finding a number of violations, the inspector had allegedly offered to cover up (i.e., not to report) these violations in exchange for a bribe of 2,000 EUR. Furthermore, the inspector had allegedly proposed to provide the company with monthly consulting services for the same payment amount. After the owner of the company notified the Public Security Branch Office of these events, the authorities arrested the inspector in question, after verifying that he had received the bribe money on his second visit to the factory.

A different investigation involved bribery allegations against public officials at the Istanbul Courthouse Execution Offices. The investigation was also conducted by using hidden cameras and it was determined that certain individuals had offered cash payments varying between 100 Turkish Lira (approx. 20 EUR) and 10,000 Turkish Lira (approx. 2,000 EUR) by using envelopes placed inside the case files. Accordingly, a criminal case was initiated against 34 suspects regarding bribery and misconduct charges.

In October 2017, a network of public servants who were allegedly engaged in corrupt activities has been uncovered at the Turkish Standards Institute (TSI), as a result of a letter that was received by the Ankara Police Department from certain TSI employees, notifying the authorities about the corrupt activities taking place inside the TSI. Allegedly, this group was receiving bribes in the form of cash, valuable gifts, scholarships for relatives and paid off holiday expenses, in exchange for providing certain documents to companies. Upon receipt of the notification letter, the Ankara Police Department monitored the suspects by using technical and physical methods, gathered evidence and substantiated the allegations, and 12 people were taken into custody shortly thereafter.

Prepared by Gönenç Gürkaynak Esq., Ceren Yıldız and Nazlı Gürün for the 12th International Conference on Anti-Corruption London held on June 27 and 28, 2018

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions