As prosecutions for bribery and other corruption crimes have ramped up around the world, so too has a practice common in the United States that is now spreading: resolving criminal cases short of full trials. A prosecution can be cut short three ways. The first is through a plea bargain. The defendant admits guilt at some point between the investigation and the rendering of a final verdict. As the term implies, the admission is the result of a bargain, the defendant receiving something in return, most often a lesser sentence.
The second and third ways are through non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements. With the former, the prosecution does not charge the accused with a crime even though it has sufficient evidence to do so; in the latter, a charge is filed but immediately set aside. Like a plea bargain, non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements are the result of an agreement between the accused and prosecutors.
The American practice of settling a criminal case short of a trial has always had its critics. With an increasing number of countries adopting similar practices, several for the explicit purpose of resolving corruption prosecutions, the concerns about settlement heard in America, along with ones peculiar to corruption cases, are now circulating in a larger international community (examples here, here, and here). For a paper on developing countries and settlements, I summarize the literature on how to analyze settlements. It appears below. I believe it robust enough to apply to any country, but would like to hear readers’ comments. Continue reading