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Prevention of Bribery (Amendment) Bill 2007 to be gazetted

    The Prevention of Bribery (Amendment) Bill 2007, which proposes to apply certain provisions of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO) to the Chief Executive (CE), will be gazetted tomorrow (July 6).
     "The amendment Bill imposes restrictions on the CE in respect of any bribery acts of solicitation and acceptance of advantage and possession of unexplained property," a government spokesman said.

     The provisions will complement the common law offence of bribery which is already binding on the CE and significantly enhance the anti-corruption regime for Hong Kong. At present, the CE is prohibited from offering or accepting bribes under the common law offence of bribery.  Furthermore, under Article 47 of the Basic Law, the CE must be a person of integrity and shall declare his or her assets to the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal (CJ). An impeachment mechanism is provided under Article 73(9) of the Basic Law to handle charges of serious breach of law and dereliction of duty by the CE.

     "Notwithstanding the existing anti-corruption regime, the CE has agreed to take the extra step of extending the application of certain POBO provisions to himself within the framework of the Basic Law, in order to demonstrate our commitment to a clean government," the spokesman said.

     The Bill proposes to amend sections 4, 5 and 10 of the POBO so that the offences under these sections would be applicable to the CE. Under the amended sections 4 and 5 of the POBO, the CE would commit an offence if he solicits or accepts any bribes. Any person who offers any bribes to the CE would also commit an offence. In addition, under the amended section 10, if any CE or former CE maintains a standard of living or controls property disproportionate to his income that he cannot satisfactorily explain to the court, he will be guilty of an offence.

     The Bill also specifies that when, upon investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), there is reason to suspect that the CE may have committed an offence under the POBO, the Commissioner, ICAC may refer the matter to the Secretary for Justice (SJ). Upon receipt of the referral from the Commissioner, ICAC, if the SJ has reason to suspect that the CE may have committed an offence under the POBO, he may refer the case to the Legislative Council (LegCo) for it to consider whether to take any action under BL 73(9).

     "The proposed provision is essential for the proper handling of a corruption complaint against the CE. It ensures that the SJ would not be prevented from referring corruption complaints against the CE and the findings of ICAC's investigation to the LegCo by section 30 of the POBO," the spokesman said.

     "The application of the Basic Law, common law and more stringent legislation to the CE will more effectively safeguard the integrity of the CE and prevent any corrupt practices," the spokesman said.

     The Bill will be introduced into the LegCo on July 11.

Ends/Thursday, July 5, 2007