Case Studies

Our case studies contain analysis and discussion points for users to better understand the legal provisions. They also provide suggestions on how to prevent corruption, fraud and malpractices.

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Alan is a senior portfolio manager of a pension fund in a large asset management  corporation.    He  is  also  a  member  of  the  company’s  broker selection committee and has an influence on the proportion of business allocated to external brokers.   Agnes is an account manager of a brokerage firm which, to Alan’s knowledge, charges a higher brokerage rate but offers a poor level of service.    On  one  occasion,  Agnes  invites  Alan  to  join  her  for  a  drink  and eventually explains to him that she is prepared to rebate him if he can persuade other members in the selection committee to direct business to her.   To get things moving, she proposes placing $100,000 into Alan’s bank account. Succumbing to the temptation, Alan gives Agnes his account number.  This "under-the-table" arrangement is finally exposed and reported to the ICAC by a colleague of Alan.   Both Alan and Agnes are arrested even before they execute the corruption deal.

In a construction project of a commercial complex valued over $500 million, the main contractor employed ten Foremen to monitor the work of sub-contractors.   A Site Engineer of the company, who took charge of the Foremen, was responsible for the overall supervision of the project.


The salaries of the Foremen and other workers were calculated on a daily basis.    Each  of  them  was  required  to  punch  an  attendance  card  when reporting on and off duty every day.   The attendance cards and the punching machine were placed in the Engineer’s office so that when the Foremen and other  staff  reported  on  or  off  duty,  they  had  to  punch  the  cards  in  the Engineer’s office.  The Engineer was responsible for ascertaining that his subordinates personally punched the cards.   At the beginning of each month, the Engineer was responsible for calculating the salaries of his subordinates based on their individual attendance records for the previous month.  His calculations and the punched cards were then sent to the Accounts Department of the company for processing salary payment.


As the family of one of the Foremen, CHAN, was in Mainland China, CHAN would seek every opportunity to go to the Mainland to see his family. One day, CHAN went to see the Engineer and requested for three days’ off. CHAN, however, requested the Engineer not to record his leave but instead punched the attendance card for him so as to show that he was working on the three days.   In return, CHAN offered the Engineer $500 for assisting him in punching the attendance card and turning a blind eye to his absence.


The Engineer turned down the offer and reported the matter to the ICAC. Eventually, CHAN was convicted for offering a bribe to the Engineer, contrary to Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO) and was sentenced to imprisonment.




  1. Has the Foreman committed any criminal offence?
  2. If the Engineer rejects the bribe but still assists the Foreman in falsifying attendance, has the Engineer committed any bribery offence?
  3. If the Engineer accepts the bribe from the Foreman for assisting him in forging attendance records, what would be the possible consequences to the Engineer?

In January 2001, Lee & Wong Holdings Ltd (LW) awarded a $1,000 million contract to a main contractor for constructing four 40-storey residential blocks, a commercial complex and a car park.   The main contractor then sub-contracted  the  piling  work  to  another  company.    The  latter  in  turn awarded the work to Saar Piling Company Ltd (Saar) by simply deducting 15% of his original successful bid.  LW also appointed a consultant firm Joe & Partners (JP) to oversee the construction work.   The project was scheduled to be completed in twenty months and five months were allowed for the piling works.


JP deployed an engineer as the Project Manager (PM) to oversee the project but he was not required to be resident on site.   Occasionally, he would go to the site for meetings but did not carry out site inspections himself. Routine site inspection was left to an Assistant Inspector of Works (AIoW) and a Works Supervisor (WS) who were resident site staff appointed by JP. However, the AIoW had very limited experience in piling work.


As there were only two supervisory staff on site responsible for overseeing the whole piling works, the AIoW and the WS found it difficult to check every detail during the work process.  They could only rely on the records of Saar and sign the completion forms taking the face value without checking.


Due to unexpected difficulty encountered during the placing of reinforcement casings, LAM, Director of Saar, found that the piling work was behind schedule and a one-month delay was anticipated.   Saar, being a small sub-contracting company, found it difficult to bear possible substantial liquidated damage (LD) of $800,000 per day as stipulated under the main contract.


LAM then discussed the making of shortened piles with the foreman and site agent of the main contractor, who were always away from work and thus failed to monitor the work progress.  They thought that the specifications stipulated in the contract were conservative and shortened piles should cause no severe harm to the completed buildings resting on top of the piles.   They believed that the buildings would not be structurally affected.


LAM instructed his workers not to excavate the pile bores as deep as the proposed founding levels.   Instead, after the length of the reinforcement casings had been checked by the supervisory staff of JP, LAM asked his workers to cut the casings during night time when the consultant site supervisory staff were off duty.   LAM then manipulated a measuring tape by removing parts of its central portion so that it gave a reading longer than the actual measurement.   When the supervisory staff of JP measured the pile bore depth using the manipulated measuring tape provided and re-examined the reinforcement casing, they were not able to detect that the piles had been shortened.


One day, the WS of JP discovered that the length of the constructed piles did not match with the concrete delivery records for the piles.   He suspected that some of the piles might have been shortened.   He immediately approached LAM for an explanation for the irregularities discovered and the proposals for remedial actions.


LAM, after discussion with the foreman and site agent, went to the WS’s office to hand him an envelope containing $300,000 and plead him to turn a blind eye to the substandard piling works.   The WS immediately refused LAM’s request.


The WS immediately  reported LAM’s  offering of bribes to the ICAC. LAM, the site foreman and site agent of the main contractor were arrested and convicted of conspiracy to offer an advantage to the WS as a reward for turning a blind eye on substandard piling work.




  1. Why were LAM, the foreman and site agent convicted of corruption offences? What actions should you take when being offered bribes?
  2. How devastating would the damages be if a construction professional accepts advantages for turning a blind eye to substandard works? What are the consequences of such behaviour?
  3. What is the importance of site supervision at a construction site?

Teddy, a clerk in a solicitor firm, was responsible for handling conveyancing documents. Due to financial pressure, Teddy was tempted by his friend to prepare fake documents to deceive the bank for mortgage loans.

CS142 (Case 58)
Ghost workers
Trades / Industries:
Areas of Concern:

Bobby, a site foreman, accidentally discovered the irregularities in attendance of the construction workers, which should be routinely checked by his subordinate. Bobby was struggling between reporting the matter to the engineer or covering up his own mis-management.

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