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Denmark is regarded as one of the world’s least corrupt countries, and bribery and other corrupt practices are not considered obstacles to business. The Danish Criminal Code (in Danish) forbids active and passive bribery and most other forms of corruption offences contained in international anti-corruption conventions. It is also forbidden to bribe foreign public officials, and companies can be held criminally liable for acts of corruption committed by individuals working on their behalf. There is no distinction made between bribes and facilitation payments, and the propriety of gifts and hospitality depends on their intent and the benefit obtained. Safeguards against corruption and abuse of power in Denmark primarily rest with a strong practice of integrity rather than with formal rules and regulations. Despite a very low level of corruption, international monitoring institutions have criticised Denmark for its non-transparent rules on financing of political parties, and for insufficient enforcement of foreign bribery laws. Nonetheless, the government enforces their anti-corruption policies and laws effectively.
Last updated: November 2015
Denmark's judiciary has a good reputation among citizens and companies, and judicial corruption is not considered a problem. Public polls reveal that citizens do not pay bribes to judges and that the judicial system is considered among Denmark’s least corrupt institutions (GCB 2013; SESC 2014). The judiciary is independent, fair and effective in settling disputes and enforcing contracts (ICS 2015; GCR 2015-2016). Denmark is ranked among the countries with the most efficient and impartial judicial system to address commercial disputes in the world (GETR 2014). The legal framework, however, is not overly effective in challenging government regulations (GCR 2015-2016). Denmark has signed the New York Convention of 1958 and is party to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
The Danish police is not affected by corruption, and it enjoys a large degree of public trust. The reliability of police services to protect companies from crime is considered very high (GCR 2015-2016), and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish police abuse and corruption (HRR 2013). Public polls reveal that citizens do not pay bribes to police officers and that police services are considered to be among Denmark’s least corrupt institutions (GCB 2013; SESC 2014).
Companies are very unlikely to encounter corruption when obtaining public services in Denmark. Legal, regulatory and accounting systems are transparent and in accordance with international standards (ICS 2015). Bureaucratic procedures are streamlined and transparent (ICS 2015). Although it is considered relatively burdensome to deal with government administrative requirements, companies report that irregular payments and bribes almost never occur when obtaining public utilities, business permits, licences and other related services (GCR 2015-2016; European Commission 2014). Other sources describe the public administration as very well-functioning and contributing to a good and safe business environment (Invest in Denmark, Dec. 2013). Denmark has been ranked by the World Bank as the easiest country in Europe to do business. Businesses can start up their companies within a few hours through an easy plug'n'play registration system (Invest in Denmark, Oct. 2014).
Companies are not likely to encounter corruption while interacting with land services in Denmark (European Commission, Feb. 2014). Property rights are protected by law, and secured interests in property are recognised and enforced (ICS 2015).
The Danish tax administration is considered free from corruption and abuse of power, and bribery almost never occurs during interactions with tax authorities (GCB 2013; European Commission, Feb. 2014). Nevertheless, almost half of surveyed companies consider tax fraud to be the most widespread corrupt practice (European Commission, Feb. 2014). Tax rates and regulations are ranked by businesses to be among the most problematic factors to doing business in Denmark (GCR 2015-2016). The Danish Tax Assessment Act specifies that bribes and facilitation payments paid to foreign public officials and employees of state-controlled enterprises are not tax deductible. The Ministry of Taxation publishes corporate tax records to increase transparency and public scrutiny of corporate tax payments (ICS 2015).
Corruption is not a problem for importing or exporting at Denmark's borders, and transparency and efficiency of the border administration is very high (GETR 2014). Polls reveal that the Danish customs administration is considered free from corruption and abuse of power, and that bribery almost never occurs during interactions with customs services (GCB 2013; European Commission, Feb. 2014).
There is a very low risk of encountering corruption, mismanagement or irregularities in Denmark's public procurement process. Few surveyed businesses believe that corruption prevent their company from winning a public tender (European Commission, Feb. 2014), or that procurement officials are likely to show favouritism when deciding on contracts (GCR 2015-2016). The legal framework regulating public procurement is sufficient for ensuring fair and transparent procurement processes (NISA 2012), and companies convicted of corruption are exluded from future tender participation (OECD, May 2015). Public tenders involving large scale public procurement must be held in accordance with EU legislation (ICS 2015).
The Danish Criminal Code (in Danish) prohibits active and passive bribery, abuse of public office, embezzlement, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and the proceeds of bribery. It also criminalises bribery of foreign public officials, bribery between businesses, and corruption committed by individuals working on the company's behalf. Penalties for bribery under the Criminal Code can include fines and up to six years' imprisonment. There is no distinction made between bribes and facilitation payments, and the propriety of gifts and hospitality depend on their intent and the benefit obtained. Companies should note that the Criminal Code has been criticised by the OECD and GRECO with regards to facilitation payments paid to foreign public officials, as it appears to permit a defence of such payments in countries with 'very special conditions' (OECD, May 2015). The Ministry of Justice has clarified that facilitation payments will always constitute a criminal offence in connection with international business relations if the purpose is to induce a foreign public employee to breach his or her duties (EUACR 2014). The Act on Measures to Prevent Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism requires regulated financial institutions and other entities to report suspicious transactions to thePublic Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime (SØIK, in Danish). Denmark has no specific laws to protect whistleblowers or ensure registered contact between public officials and lobbyists, and conflict of interest and asset disclosure of MPs and ministers are done on a voluntary basis. The government enforces anti-corruption laws effectively (HRR 2014).
Denmark is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the Council of Europe’s Civil and Criminal Law Conventions against Corruption and the Group of States Against Corruption(GRECO).
Denmark's constitution guarantees freedom of expression, which is widely respected in practice. The media reflects a wide variety of political opinions and is frequently critical of the government (FitW 2015). Danish media plays a central role in uncovering scandals of political abuse, with cases of suspected fraud often starting in the media and subsequently picked up by relevant public authorities (NISA 2012). A controversial access to information law was ratified in 2013, banning public access to documents between the ministries and their administrations. Criticism has been voiced that this restricted access to information will prevent the media and civil society from discovering potential abuse of power in the state administration (FotP 2015). The Danish media environment is among the freest in the world (FotP 2015).
There is no uniform legislation that regulates civil society organisations (CSOs) in Denmark, but their independence is guaranteed by law and there are no examples of political interference (NISA 2012). Very few CSOs deal with corruption due to the limited role that corruption plays in the public debate. Nevertheless, the main government entities responsible for combatting corruption collaborate actively with civil society (HRR 2014).
- World Economic Forum: Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016.
- OECD: Phase 3 Report, May 2015.
- World Economic Forum: The Global Enabling Trade Report 2014.
- Eurobarometer: Special Eurobarometer 397 – Corruption Report, February 2014.
- Eurobarometer: Flash Eurobarometer 374 – Businesses Attitudes towards Corruption in the EU, February 2014.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement – Denmark 2014.
- Freedom House: Freedom in the World – Denmark Country Profile 2014.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press – Denmark Country Profile 2014.
- Invest in Denmark: 'World Bank: Denmark best European country for business in 2015', 29 October 2014.
- European Commission: EU Anti-Corruption Report: Annex 4, Denmark, Feb. 2014.
- GRECO: Fourth Evaluation Round – Evaluation Report Denmark, April 2014.
- Shippingwatch: ‘Korruption udfordrer den globale containerindustri’, 13 June 2013.
- Danmarks Radio: ’Korruptions-vagthund ser med stor alvor på dansk offentlighedslov’, 29 May 2013.
- Danmarks Radio: ’Ny lov vil skjule skandalesager’, 7 May 2013.
- Transparency International: Global Corruption Barometer 2013.
- US Department of State: Country Report on Human Rights Practices - Denmark 2013.
- Invest in Denmark: 'Denmark Tops Anti-Corruption Index', 3 December 2013.
- Transparency International: National Integrity System Assessment Denmark 2012.
- Shippingwatch: ‘Danske rederier med i nyt globalt netværk mod korruption’, 7 June 2012.