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Article 134- Bribery and Graft

Bribery and graft is another provision under Article 134. The text of the original article does not mention any specific neglect or disorder, but anything that prejudices the armed force's discipline or good order; all conducts, the nature of which bring discredit to the armed forces, and offenses and crimes, that are not capital, but which subject to this article, committed by an enlisted member, will be punished by a court martial. Such punishment will follow the degree and nature of the offense.

Sadly, given the global footprint of the U.S armed forces and the vast defense budget, bribery is one of the most common offenses that enlisted members are accused off.

Elements of Article 134- Bribery

  1. Asking, receiving or accepting
  • The accused has wrongfully asked, received or accepted an article holding value from a identified organization or person.
  • The accused was then occupying an official position or was managing official duties.
  • The accused has asked, received or accepted an article of value (with the intention of influencing an action or decision of the accused- bribery) (in recognition of or compensation for services rendered or to be rendered, or both- graft)
  • The matter in which the accused's intervention was sought was an official matter that involved the United States or it was a matter in which the United States had a stake.
  1. Promising, giving or offering
  • The accused had wrongfully promised, offered or given an article of value to an identified person.
  • The person who was promised, offered or given the article was then occupying an official position or was managing official duties.
  • The article was offered, promised, or given with the intention of influencing an action or decision of the person- bribery) (in recognition of or compensation for, services rendered or to be rendered, or both by the person)
  • The matter in which the person's intervention was sought was an official matter, involving the Unites States or a matter in which the United States had a stake.

Element common to both

  • Under the given circumstances, the accused's conduct was prejudiced against the discipline and good order of the armed forces or the nature of the act brought discredit to the armed forces.

Explanation for bribery and graft

'Bribery' refers to the intent to get influenced or influence another in an official matter. 'Graft' is receiving or giving compensation for services performed when the individual was in an official position, when no compensation was to be given.

The maximum punishment for persons held guilty of bribery

  • In case of bribery, the enlisted member can receive a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of allowances and pay and five years of confinement.
  • In case the enlisted member is held guilty of graft, he can receive a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of allowances and pay and three years of confinement.

An example of Article 134- bribery in action

Between 2004 and 2007, many high ranking officers of the U.S army (and their dependents) serving as contracting officers were accused of bribery and graft. The deals allegedly took place at the contracting offices of the U.S government in Kuwait. One of the officers even committed suicide when it came to light that she had taken money in bribes.

At least three contracting officers of the U.S army, their family members and many contractors were found guilty of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering and were handed heavy punishments in the ensuing trial.

The ring leader, a Major in the army was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison and imposed a fine of $9.6 million. which was the total amount he had obtained in bribes. Many of his co-conspirators are awaiting judgment.

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