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Bribery still exists even if the purpose of the bribe has not been achieved

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An international company intended to set up its South East Asian headquarters in Hong Kong.  A committee was appointed, chaired by the company's vice president, Susanna, to select the supplier of IT equipment and computer software for the new office.


One of Susanna's old school friends, who worked for a computer supplier, learnt of the possible contract and approached Susanna.  In an attempt to influence Susanna's decision over the contract for the IT equipment and software, he gave her an expensive watch as a gift. Though fully aware of her classmate's intention  and  clearly  knowing  that  she  did  not  have  the  power  to  affect  the decision  of  the  committee,  Susanna  still  succumbed  to  the  temptation  and accepted the gift. In a further attempt to influence her decision, her school friend paid Susanna a visit at home and deliberately left behind a new notebook computer, saying it was for her trial use during overseas business trips.


After prudent consideration, the committee finally decided to award the equipment and software contract to another company.  Susanna's old school friend was upset at the outcome but could do nothing about it. Later, some of Susanna's colleagues learnt of the watch and notebook computer, which gave rise to much gossip in her company. The incident eventually drew the attention of senior management and was reported to the ICAC for investigation.


Case Analysis

Susanna's old school friend clearly tried to sweeten her with gifts. He was the offeror and Susanna was the recipient. Even though Susanna subsequently did not place orders with his company, both of them already breached the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO).


Under Section 11 of the POBO, if it is proved that the offeror believes that the advantage given is an inducement or a reward of favours , the recipient of the bribe cannot use the defence that: (a) "he did not actually have the power to do so", (b) "he accepted the advantage without intending to do so" or (c) "he did not in fact do so". It is important to note that accepting any gift or sweetener is an offence under law, even if the final outcome or intent of the gift is not achieved.


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