Research Study on Responsibility of Legal Persons for Corruption and Economic Criminal Offences with Special Emphasize on Political Parties


When it comes to the debate on the criminal responsibility of political parties, the results of this project suggest that key conflicting interests appear the interests of justice and the interests of democracy. Although historical development of criminal law was moving towards the abandoning of the collective responsibility, recent trends suggest that individual criminal responsibility is still insufficient. Some offenses are carried out on behalf of the collective and to satisfy the interests of the same. Because of this it is considered fair to punish the whole collective as such, not just its individuals. Such interests of justice exists also in the terms of the political parties. We observed the issue of criminal responsibility of political parties as legal entities through the lenses of comparative analysis. We compared the French legislation, which was a model for Croatian legislation and influenced in part some legal systems in the region (e.g. Macedionan law) regulating this legal matter. This research particularly observed possible obstacles in investigating, prosecuting, convicting and punishing political parties for criminal offences: immunity, abolition, amnesty, pardon, law amendments, political preferences of prosecutors and judges etc. These obstacles are sometimes difficult to overcome due to the two aforementioned interests at stake: interests of justice vs. interests of democracy. On the one hand, there is an aspiration to punish the wrongdoer, which is in this case a political party. On the other hand, there is a need of ensuring the effective functioning of the state, in which political parties play an essential role.
The main conclusions in our research consider adequate party regulation and implementation of these rules in order to contribute to the prevention of their criminal activities. The most sensitive area of regulation is political financing. Private political funding always raises controversy about interests behind these transactions. However, in determining state’s policy on political funding, we also need to take into account that legal prohibition of private donations would not eliminate them, but place them in the grey zone, which would just make the situation worse. Thus, states need to adopt regulations that will contribute to improving the transparency of political financing. Strengthening political parties’ compliance by non-criminal provisions follows the idea that criminal law needs to satisfy its ultima ratio principle within the legal system. This principle of criminalization as last resort requires that the legislator refrains from introducing criminal penalties on unlawful behaviour if more lenient measures in other branches of law are available with the same effect. Thus, a comprehensive assessment of the evolving concept of criminal responsibility of political parties could not be done without an analysis of possible alternatives to the criminal law approach. Different forms of liability (constitutional, political, civil, administrative) require a comprehensive analysis in order to assess the limits of criminal law with respect to political parties. The analysis suggests that, while the alternatives serve similar purposes, they still cannot produce the same effects as the criminal justice and administration. Thus, at least for the most severe crimes, the model of criminal liability of political parties undoubtedly serves its purpose.