I've heard that, to escape dangerous regions, refugees sometimes find themselves needing to bribe border officials. This could be because they are legally not supposed to be allowed to leave the state they are in, or it could be because they are supposed to be allowed to cross, but the local government is so corrupt that they cannot exercise that right without paying a bribe (i.e. they are victims of extortion).

I've also heard that people in such situations nowdays might now run online fundraisers to collect money to escape, to be used to pay for things like travel fare, food and housing wherever they escape to, and also any bribes they might find themselves required to pay to accomplish their escape.

What US crime, if any, would it be for a United States person to donate money to a foreign national who is going to (or likely to) use it to bribe a foreign official?

Does it matter if the person says "I need $500 to pay a bribe," vs. "I need $2000 to escape, $500 of which I will spend on a bribe," vs. "I need $2000 to escape, $500 of which I will leave unallocated in case someone extorts me for a bribe along the way"?

  • I'm mostly interested in United States law here, though it is a good point that any jurisdiction in or against which which bribery actually occurred might also have strong opinions on the matter.
    – interfect
    Mar 3 at 21:37
  • 2
    When you give someone money, whether they spend it on food, drugs or bribes is completely outside of your control. Can you show where someone asks for money 'for a bribe' rather than for 'living expenses' or 'immigration expenses'? Instead of making it up. If they do, then I suggest making your donation to someone else who is more discrete. There is no shortage of needy refugees. Mar 3 at 21:46

1 Answer 1


Unlawfulness of bribing foreign officials in the US is through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This makes it illegal for a company to bribe foreign officials to gain a business advantage and includes provisions for giving money to someone who will then use the money to bribe an official.

Nothing in that act makes it a crime to pay off a cop who shakes you down in Mexico, or make a payment to get paperwork completed in Thailand. It would also not be unlawful to give someone else money for such things.

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