A 44-year-old businessman from China pleaded guilty in a Hong Kong court on Monday to one count of bribery after he was accused of offering a gift to a local employee of banking giant HSBC.
The businessman, Chen Zhengxi, admitted that he offered a bottle of expensive perfume to a HSBC staffer who was handling an application for opening a new bank account.
He, however, sought leniency from the court, with his lawyer arguing that Chen attempted to give a gift merely as a friendly gesture, something that is common back in China.
Cultural differences and unfamiliarity with Hong Kong laws led to a foolish mistake, the lawyer said.
But a judge rejected the claim, pointing out that corruption and bribery are illegal in all reputable jurisdictions and that Hong Kong will not tolerate such offenses.
Accusing Chen, who hails from China’s Zhejiang province, of bringing bad culture into Hong Kong, magistrate Peter Law indicated that he will impose a tough sentence on the defendant.
The Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court heard earlier that Chen, who runs Yanska Holdings (Hong Kong), met with an assistant manager at HSBC’s Mong Kok branch on July 12 as he wanted to open a bank account for his company.
The mainland businessman provided the bank employee, a woman surnamed Tang, with some documents to help her process the application.
As Tang returned to her seat after taking photocopies of the documents, she found a bottle of Chanel No.5 perfume on her desk.
Chen allegedly told her that the gift, which is estimated to be worth HK$1,350, was just a goodwill gesture and that he hopes the bank will expedite his application.
Tang refused to accept the gift, saying that any application for opening an account must follow the established procedures.
She then reported the gift-giving attempt to her superiors in the bank, Apple Daily reports.
Following a complaint, Chen was arrested last Thursday by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which charged the businessman with violating Hong Kong’s Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.
Chen’s lawyer told the court Monday that the defendant thought that he would be able to open a bank account with minimum documentation as he held an account in the past with the same bank.
Noting that gifting is a common practice in the mainland, the lawyer claimed that Chen’s act was due to cultural differences as well as his unfamiliarity with Hong Kong law.
He urged the judge to give a lenient sentence, promising that Chen will take the court’s message back to the mainland.
However, the judge questioned the logic behind the defense and said that a light sentence will only encourage others to follow suit and harm the business culture in Hong Kong.
Bribery is also against the law in the mainland and it is a crime whether it is done explicitly or otherwise, the judge said.
Chen will be sentenced on Tuesday.
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