Anti-corruption in Hong Kong: Random Jotting

  • Written by Sayar Mya (MOFA)
    [With the community, the Independent Commission against Corruption is committed to fighting corruption through effective law enforcement, education and prevention to help keep Hong Kong fair, just, stable and prosperous.]

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Mission Statement of ICAC in Hong Kong

On a cool Sunday morning under the clear blue sky in the first week of August, I was strolling around the city in Hong Kong and happened to pass the area of Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) Headquarters Building on Java Road, North Point. I stopped for a moment near the elegant and prestigious ICAC building. While admitted into the structure, my mind rushes back to two recent events related to anti-graft matters such as that of the workshop on “Risk Assessment in Public Procurement” held in June 2018 in Nay Pyi Taw, and that of the ICAC delegation, led by Commissioner Mr. Simon Peh Yun-lu, official visit to Myanmar in April 2018. The delegation was in Myanmar with a view to sharing the Hong Kong anti-graft experience as well as exploring opportunities to offer training assistance to anti-corruption agencies.
In Nay Pyi Taw, capital of Myanmar, Mr. Peh and the ICAC delegation called on the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Myanmar and held discussions with its Chairman U Aung Kyi. The ICAC chief had engaged in an exchange session with Hong Kong businessmen operating in Myanmar to better understand the local business environment and the areas that ICAC can be of assistance to help the ACC of Myanmar enhance their anti-corruption capacity for the creation of a level-playing field for investors.
Myanmar’s Anti-Corruption Commission and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held a workshop titled “Risk Assessment in Public Procurement” in the commission’s office building in Nay Pyi Taw in June 2018.
Present at the discussion were Anti-Corruption Chair U Aung Kyi, Commission Secretary U San Win and commission members, and UNODC experts Mr. Constantine Miltchev Palicarsky and Ms. Cornelia Anna Kortl.
In his opening speech, U Aung Kyi said public procurement takes up a huge share of public expenditures and is the most corruption-prone area as department heads can have close relations with business owners. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2013 report, 20 to 25 per cent of funds spent on public procurement were lost due to corruption in countries around the world, said U Aung Kyi. He added that losses caused by corruption in Myanmar may exceed this average percentage.
Preventing losses of public funds triggered by violations of rules and regulations will soon become a duty of the Anti-Corruption Commission, said U Aung Kyi.

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In the first week of July 2018, the Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman U Aung Kyi warned that those who pay bribes will also be punished, not just those who take them. His warning, at a seminar on business ethics hosted by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce, follows amendments made to the 2013 Anti-Corruption Law.
“We have amended Article 3 (a), defining in greater detail the giving and receiving of bribes. The original article didn’t specify the giver and recipient. Now the amended provision allows us to take action against anyone involved,” U Aung Kyi said.
The law had already been amended on three prior occasions — in 2014, 2016 and 2017 — but the changes were not significant. “There is a Burmese saying that you succeed by giving. Myanmar people by nature are willing to give out of generosity. But according to the [new] law, I would say that it is too risky now,” said U Aung Kyi.
In this connection, the author of this article would like to share about the ICAC of Hong Kong in a few paragraphs. Hong Kong has a long and successful history of fighting corruption, evident in the recent high-profile convictions of the former Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong Government Rafael Hui Si-yan and former Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Hong Kong’s bribery laws date back to as early as 1898, when bribery was first made an offence under the Misdemeanors Punishment Ordinance (MPO) enacted in 1898, and then in the Prevention of Corruption Ordinance (PCO), which replaced the MPO in 1948. From 1971 till today, the main anti-corruption legislation in Hong Kong has been the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Chapter 201 (POBO), which targets both official and commercial bribery.
The POBO is enforced by the Independent Commission against Corruption, an independent body established in 1974, just a few years after the POBO came into force. The ICAC is accountable only to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, led by a Commissioner who is directly appointed by the Chief Executive, and as of the end of 2016, it has a force of 1,457 employees or officers.
It has been and remains an integral part of Hong Kong’s fight against corruption and is one of the main reasons that Hong Kong enjoys a reputation as one of the least corrupt places globally (currently ranked 15 out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index).

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Major ICAC cases
1974-75: Former police chief superintendent Peter Fizroy Godber was charged with bribery and conspiracy after investigators linked to bank accounts worth HK$4.3 million. Extradited from England in 1975, he was convicted and sentenced to four years jail.
1976-78: ICAC shut down a heroin racket at the Ya Mau Tei fruit market in West Kowloon where police had received kickbacks from drug dealers. Some 87 police officers were arrested on suspicion of taking bribes in the ICAC’s single biggest operation.
1976-79: Former detective sergeant Lui Lok, forced to retire early in 1968 when he could not explain his extensive assets, was later investigated and arrested in 1978. He was eventually convicted, sentenced to two years and fined HK$16 million.
1983-2000: Structural defects at 26 public housing blocks in Kwai Fong built between 1964 and 1973 were traced to construction companies who cut corners after winning multi-million dollar government contracts. Three contractors were convicted.
1986-87: The ICAC uncovered fraudulent loan practices at the Overseas Trust Bank which clocked HK$700 million in bad debts. The bank’s chairman and other senior executives fled Hong Kong but were extradited. All received prison sentences. 1998-2000: The chief property manager of the Government Property Agency was arrested for accepting kickbacks that favored one company, in exchange for contracts worth more than HK$100 million. He was imprisoned for 30 months.

Recent cases
31 July 2018

A director-cum-shareholder of a trading company, charged by the ICAC, was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment at the District Court after being convicted of defrauding a bank of export invoice financing loans totaling about HK$13 million by using false commercial invoices.

27 July 2018
A man, charged by the ICAC, was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment at the Eastern Magistracy after admitting that he had offered a bribe of 400 Renminbi Chinese Yuan to an officer of the Immigration Department for allowing him to enter Hong Kong.
There are many more.

In conclusion, the author of this article would like to share with the esteemed readers that after forty years since its creation, the ICAC has methodically and systematically cleaned up corruption in Hong Kong. The graft-busting agency, 40 years old today, has helped transform the city beyond all recognition.

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