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Customary trade practice not a defence

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Bill was the regional manager of South East Asia in a European medical equipment manufacturer. He learnt that a medical equipment supplier in mainland China was planning to set up a company in Hong Kong to conduct bilateral business by purchasing European products through the suppliers in Hong Kong and selling wheelchairs and medical equipment made in China to South East Asia.


Bill invited the supplier to Hong Kong to have a look at the latest European medical facilities and the equipment used in hospitals in Hong Kong, as well as to get familiar with the local business environment.


Upon their arrival in Hong Kong, Bill only spent half a day visiting the hospitals with the two supplier representatives, but spent a whole week treating them to lavish meals and red wine at five star hotels and restaurants. Bill also arranged a tour to Macao, including a visit to a newly opened casino. Bill gave each of them HK$10,000 worth of casino tokens to "try their luck", claiming that it was a "trade practice" to show his hospitality to their clients. He also implied that he would offer them a handsome "red packet" if they purchase the medical equipment from his company.

Case Analysis

According to the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO), free tours, “red packet” and casino tokens are all advantages. If the two representatives accepted these advantages from Bill in Hong Kong, both of them and Bill would be subject to the POBO, so that both the offeror and recipient would breach the law if they do not have the permission of their employers to receive the advantages.


They cannot use customary trade practice as an excuse because according to Section 19 of the POBO, it shall not be a defence to show that any such advantage is customary in any profession or trade, The court shall only make a judgement based on whether permission was given by the principal of the recipient.

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