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Expedition of work

CS065-01 (Case 135)
Trades / Industries:

Highlander Construction Ltd, the main contractor of a housing development project, employed five crane operators for lifting building materials for sub-contractors in the construction site.   The staff handbook of Highlander clearly stipulated that staff was prohibited from soliciting or accepting advantages from persons having business dealings with the company, including sub-contractors.   The crane operators were briefed this policy by the Human Resources Manager when they were first recruited.


Shortly after the commencement of work, the crane operators discussed a trade practice among themselves and decided to charge sub-contractors ‘tea money’ of $9,000 per month for expediting lifting of their building materials. To those sub-contractors who did not pay, the crane operators would delay the lifting of their materials.


CHAN was the director of Shing Kee Engineering Ltd, a subcontractor responsible for the superstructure plumbing works.   He was familiar with the crane operators.   They often went out for meals and gambled after work. When the crane operators were in financial needs, CHAN would lend them money.


A resident engineer YU was aware that the crane operators often gave priority  to  CHAN  in  lifting  plumbing  materials  before  attending  to  other sub-contractors.   He was also aware that the crane operators and CHAN kept a very close relationship.   Although there were suspicious undertakings, YU did not make a complaint to the ICAC as he had no evidence of corruption.


The crane operators accepted $35,000 from CHAN over a period of seven months as a reward for giving special attention to the lifting of CHAN’s materials.   The incident was finally revealed and they were all arrested and eventually convicted of offering/accepting advantages as a reward for expediting lifting for CHAN, contrary to Section 9 of the POBO.   All of them got imprisonment sentences.


CHAN was the breadwinner of his family.   While serving his term, his son who was studying abroad had to return to Hong Kong as his family could no longer afford the costs involved.




  1. Why were CHAN and the crane operators convicted of corruption offences?
  2. Are customary/trade practices excuses for the crane operators to take advantages on the subcontractors?
  3. What are the possible costs of corruption?
  4. Should the resident engineer report any suspected corruption to the ICAC


if he only has suspicion and do not have any evidence?


Case Analysis

Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery  Ordinance


The crane operators accepted an advantage from CHAN for expediting the lifting of his materials was an offence under Section 9(1) of the POBO.   CHAN also committed an offence under Section 9(2) of the POBO.   The section (Section 9) states that:

  • an agent (normally an employee) cannot solicit or accept an advantage without the permission of his principal (normally the employer) when conducting his principal’s affairs or business; and
  • the person who offers the advantage also commits an offence.


Customary/Trade Practices


It is the duty of crane operators to use the crane to assist constructing parties to lift building materials in a construction site.   There should be no excuse for corruption by referring to a customary or trade practice of soliciting and/or accepting ‘tea money’ for expediting work.  Company management should therefore strictly prohibit this malpractice and make staff clearly aware of the prohibition and the seriousness of any breaches.


Site Operation


Contractor site management should cover the operation logistics of the tower cranes.   The use of the cranes for lifting materials should be based on operational considerations with laid-down instructions.   Discretion at the operator level should be prohibited and this message should be clearly conveyed to all staff concerned.


Costs of Corruption


The  consequence  of  corruption  is  serious.     In  this  case,  CHAN  was sentenced to imprisonment.   His family was adversely affected and the study of his son was interrupted.   Corruption ruins businesses and careers and puts individuals into disrepute.


Make a Corruption Complaint


Many complainants have the question of ‘Should I report suspected corruption to the ICAC if I do not have any evidence?’   Any person is encouraged to report any matter which he genuinely believes may involve corruption, even if he does not have any direct evidence.


To facilitate ICAC in investigation, one should include in his complaint as much details as possible.   Investigation and collection of evidence are the responsibilities of the ICAC.   Only complainants who knowingly make false and malicious complaints are liable to prosecution.

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