Article 5


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Corporate criminal liability

Article 5 of the Criminal Code provides the legal framework for the criminal liability of corporate entities. Under Article 5, a corporate entity is criminally liable both for any criminal offences committed on its behalf, and when an offence is intrinsically linked to its activities, purpose or interests.

When the corporate entity is held responsible for the negligent actions of an identified physical person, then only the party (corporate entity or physical person) who has committed the most serious fault may be convicted. In the event the identified physical person has committed the offence knowingly and willingly, then both the corporate entity and the physical person can be held criminally liable.


Under Belgian criminal law, a corporate entity can commit any offence, except those for which only physical persons could be held liable (e.g.bigamy).

The criminal liability of a corporation and/or of its directors can be triggered both by the organs (i.e. its directors and de facto directors) and the agents (which could include all types of employees) of the company. There is no need to identify the physical person who committed the offence on behalf of the corporate entity in order to prosecute the corporate entity.

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Law / Belgium / Criminal Code

The Belgian Criminal Code is the basic statutory instrument containing various provisions on penalties and offences.

The Belgian Criminal Code has been amended by numerous Acts (the provisions outlined in this database are as amended by these Acts.). The thre Acts that are most relevant to human trafficking for labour exploitation are:

  • Act of 10 August 2005 amending various provisions with a view to strengthening the fight against trafficking of human beings and the practices of slum landlords: this Act has inter alia led article 433quinquies – 433novies to be inserted into the Criminal Code, thereby creating the autonomous offence of human trafficking, and has amended the offence of human smuggling contained in article 77bis – 77sexies Aliens Act .
  • Act of 24 June 2013 on the punishment of the exploitation of begging and prostitution, human trafficking and smuggling in relation to the number of victims: this Act stipulates that the monetary fine that is to be imposed for the offences of exploitation of begging and prostitution (article 380 Criminal Code), human trafficking (article 433quinquies – 433novies Criminal Code), and human smuggling (article 77bis – 77quinquies Aliens Act) is to be multiplied by the number of victims.
  • The Act of 31st May 2016 to further implement European regulation on the sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, human trafficking and facilitation of illegal entry, unauthorised transit and illegal residence. This Act amends articles 433septies (extension of the list of aggravating circumstances) and 433novies Criminal Code (amendment of the list of penalties). The Act also introduces article 433novies/1, that prohibits and penalises the publication and distribution of texts, drawings, photos and other images and audio clips that could give an indication of the identity of the victim of human trafficking, except when this was done with her of his written consent or within the framework of a judicial inquiry.