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Accepting advantage

Trades / Industries:
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Baldwin, a legal clerk of a very respectable legal firm specializing in criminal cases, was responsible for handling paperwork, filing documentation, communicating with clients, as well as setting appointments and meetings.


Recently, Baldwin was handling a criminal case for a client, Timothy, who was a sales representative in a jewelry wholesale company and was charged with two counts of theft amounting to around $250,000.  Timothy claimed that he was unduly implicated when his colleague suddenly resigned soon after the thefts were discovered.  Fearing to be convicted, both Timothy and his wife were desperate to seek legal assistance.


Sensing the desperation of his client, Baldwin tried to take advantage of the situation.  Baldwin hinted to Timothy and his wife that their chance of winning was half-and-half but it would certainly increase with Baldwin’s expertise.  He also stated that the legal fees would be expensive but worthwhile because Timothy’s reputation within the trade was more important.  The couple was so eager that they were willing to pay whatever it took to get out of the mess.


Soon after, Timothy and his wife came to the legal firm for a meeting with Baldwin.  At the end of the meeting, the couple gave an envelope to Baldwin saying that its content was a token of appreciation if Baldwin could help Timothy off the hook.  Baldwin opened the envelope and bundles of cash came into sight.  Baldwin gladly accepted the ‘token’.  However, Timothy was eventually convicted due to substantial evidence.


Did Baldwin violate any legislation for accepting money from his clients even though the outcome of the whole case was really not up to him to manoeuvre?

Case Analysis

Under Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO), it would be an offence for any agent to accept advantage without the permission of his principal when conducting his principal’s affairs or business. Baldwin, as an employee of the law firm, might violate Section 9 of POBO, since he, without the approval of his employer, accepted the cash offered by Timothy and his wife for assisting them in the criminal case. On the other hand, Timothy and his wife might also violate POBO for offering bribes. 


Even though the outcome of the criminal case was beyond Baldwin’s abilities, according to Section 11 of POBO, the offeror (i.e. Timothy and his wife) and the acceptor (i.e. Baldwin) of bribe would still commit an offence irrespective of whether or not the purpose of the bribery has actually been carried out.

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