Criminological research defines corruption as the "abuse of a public office, a position in the economic sector or a political mandate in favour of a third party, upon their instigation or one's own initiative to obtain an advantage for oneself or a third party, with the occurrence or in the expectation of the occurrence of damage to or a disadvantage for the general public (in official or political functions) or for an enterprise (if the offender holds a pertinent position in the economic sector)." The guidelines for police information exchange in corruption cases differentiates between "situative" and "structural" corruption.
Situative corruption refers to acts of corruption which are based on a spontaneous decision of will, i.e. the actual commission of the deed comes about as an immediate reaction to an official action and is not subject to any purposeful planning or preparation.
Structural corruption comprises cases in which the corruptive action was consciously planned prior to the commission of the crime on the basis of long-term corruptive relations. Therefore, there are specific or mental preparatory acts which exclude a spontaneous action here.
Acts of corruption are defined in the following articles of substantive criminal law:
- Art. 108b/ Art. 108e Penal Code (bribery of voters/members of parliament)
- Arts. 299 ff. Penal Code (corruption and bribery in business transactions)
- Arts. 331 ff. Penal Code (acceptance of a benefit/bribe and granting of a benefit/bribery)
Additionally relevant for the suppression of corruption at the international level are the International Bribery Act and the EU Bribery Act.