Singapore famously adopts a zero-tolerance approach to bribery. But bribery still occurs, as evidenced by some high-profile cases this year. Bribes both large and small have also attracted media attention recently, highlighting the exacting manner in which authorities crack down on corruption.
Among the more prominent cases were two involving the shipping industry. In February, a senior procurement officer at Keppel Shipyard pleaded guilty to 54 of the 305 charges of corruption and money-laundering laid against him, admitting to taking over SGD$700,000 in bribes.
In August, a director for the marine logistics and transportation company Hai Hup Huat was accused of offering 310 bribes amounting to SGD$178,150 to over 40 people, including boarding officers and shipping agents.
Under the Prevention of Corruption Act, bribery is punishable by jail terms of up to five years and/or a fine of up to SGD$100,000.
But smaller bribes also drew the attention of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
In April, a man who was stopped for drink driving tried to avoid arrest by bribing the attending police officer SGD$1,000. The police officer did not comply with the offer.
In September, a man admitted to paying at least SGD$800 in bribes to an airport check-in worker to overlook excess baggage weight on a Tigerair flight. The man was running a side business, buying gold in Singapore then selling it in Chennai, India. Rather than pay to use a courier service, he sought to carry the gold out of Singapore himself, avoiding excess weight charges by bribing the airport worker, an acquaintance of his.
In October, a Vietnamese national who had already been arrested for participating in unspecified “vice-related activities” was charged with bribery after she allegedly offered to bribe a police office to let her out of custody.
If the large bribery cases are the most eye-catching ones, it’s the smaller cases that indicate the breadth of the problem and what is at stake here. The perennial challenge is to avoid normalising acts of corruption – overlooking acts just because they seem negligibly small – and instead to instil a culture of compliance with anti-bribery and corruption laws and regulations everywhere, including our workplaces.
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