In the recent 2000 Corruption Perceptions Index, Singapore was ranked fifth in a list of 90 countries, tying with Iceland and Norway. A score of 10 was given to countries that were considered 'highly clean' and zero for those regarded as 'highly corrupt'. Singapore scored 9.1. A recent case highlights issues of corruption.
The Singapore authorities have always taken a stern view of corrupt practices. The investigation and prosecution of offenders involved in bribery or any corrupt practice have always been swift and unwavering. All investigations of corrupt practices are carried out by a special enforcement agency known as the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). The laws against bribery and corrupt practices are embodied in the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241).
Section 5 of the act makes it an offence for:
"[a]ny person who shall by himself or by or in conjunction with any other person
(a) corruptly solicit or receive, or agree to receive for himself, or for any other person; or
(b) corruptly give, promise or offer to any person whether for the benefit of that person or of another person,
any gratification as an inducement to or reward for, or otherwise on account of (i) any person doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever, actual or proposed; or (ii) any member, officer or servant of a public body doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of any matter or transaction whatsoever, actual or proposed, in which such public body is concerned, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both."
Section 6 of the act further provides that an agent must not corruptly accept or obtain, or agree to accept or obtain, any gratification or reward for doing or not doing an act, or to show favour or disfavour, in relation to his principal's affairs or business. The offeror in such circumstances also commits an offence. The punishment for an offence under this section is the same as that under Section 5.
On conviction, the court may, in addition to a custodial sentence or fine, order an offender who received a gratification to pay a penalty equal to the amount of the gratification received.
The court applies a two-stage test to determine the term 'corruptly' under the act. The prosecution must prove (i) that a corrupt element exists, which is an objective test; and (ii) the requisite guilty knowledge, a subjective test.
This test was applied in the recent trial of PP v Chua Tiong Tiong. Chua was a well-known underworld loan shark operator. He was accused of corruptly giving police officers kickbacks (in the form of free drinks and the services of hostesses at nightclubs), in exchange for police protection of his business interests.
The police officers who corruptly received his favours were also charged for offences under the act.
The first trial of one of the police inspectors and Chua was exceptional in that both giver and recipient were jointly charged and tried. It is rare for the prosecution to prosecute both giver and recipient because it poses evidential hurdles that the prosecution must overcome.
Nevertheless, the prosecution was able to satisfy the court, which applied the two-step test without having to adduce direct evidence from either the giver or the recipient of the bribes. The prosecution had to rely on indirect evidence from other witnesses present in order to make the necessary inferences as to the intentions of the giver and the recipient.
Chua and the police inspector were found guilty and convicted after a full trial. They were sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment and 30 months' imprisonment, respectively. Both have appealed.
For further information on this topic please contact Wendell Wong at Drew & Napier by telephone (+65 531 2496 ) or by fax (+65 532 7149 ) or by e-mail ([email protected]). The Drew & Napier web site can be accessed at www.drewnapier.com.
The materials contained on this web site are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer