Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal has reaffirmed that the city’s Prevention of Bribery Ordinance cannot be used against parties in Hong Kong who conspire to bribe those outside the territory, reports Bloomberg.
Last year, Lionel John Krieger and James Tam Ping-cheong, directors of a Hong Kong-based Swire Pacific Ltd subsidiary, were convicted in Hong Kong for conspiring to bribe Macau’s former public works chief Ao Man-long, who has been sentenced to jail in Macau for 29 years.
Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal overturned their convictions, ruling that Hong Kong’s law doesn’t cover offers made outside the city, even if the planning had happened in Hong Kong.
The August 1 ruling was made in response to an appeal by Hong Kong’s Director of Public Prosecutions. It effectively puts out of bounds the prosecution of parties that pay an estimated US$3.9 billion in bribes a year out of Hong Kong.
Former World Bank official Bryane Michael, who advised the Hong Kong government on the issue, told Bloomberg that the money typically goes to government officials in developing countries.
The worry is that the ruling will embolden companies and individuals in Hong Kong to continue planning bribery schemes in, and sourcing funds from, Hong Kong, trusting that they will not be prosecuted in the country where those bribes are meant to go.