Stepped up drive against commercial bribery

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-16 07:12

China is stepping up efforts to combat bribery in the commercial sector, targeting not only the domestic firms, but also multinationals.

Although most multinationals in the country are "well-behaved", some bribe officials for business favors, Vice-Minister of Supervision Li Yufu told a press conference in Beijing yesterday.

He said such acts disrupt market order, and the authorities will take "a closer look" at the illegal practice and punish the wrongdoers.

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Li said the ministry, together with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Supreme People's Court, is collecting material and studying typical cases.

It is not known what measures will be implemented or when they will be announced.

Li reiterated that China will not tolerate commercial bribery, and "anyone found guilty, Chinese or foreigners, will receive severe punishment".

The crackdown on commercial corruption usually bribes given by companies to government officials in exchange for special favors has been highlighted in the country's anti-graft drive in the past two years. It has mainly focused on domestic companies.

Official figures released yesterday show that China tackled 17,084 commercial corruption cases from August 2005 to the end of last year, involving 4.5 billion yuan ($580 million). Of them, 3,912 cases, or 23 percent, directly involved government employees.

It is not known how many of the cases involved foreign companies.

But a report by the Democracy and Law Times in December said that more than half of commercial bribery in China in the past decade involved foreign businessmen.
Opinion: Root out bribery
Commercial bribery disturbs market order, tarnishes the credibility of administrative authorities, and ultimately poisons social morale.

For instance, IBM was reportedly connected with the fall of Zhang Enzhao, former president of China Construction Bank, who received 15 years in jail in November for accepting more than 4 million yuan ($512,000) in bribes.

The report quoted the court as saying that IBM at one stage deposited a $225,000 "service fee" into the account of Zou Jianhua, chairman of Hong Kong Hengchuang Technology, through whom the company met Zhang under "unusual circumstances".

According to another report by the 21st Century Business Herald last month, seven multinationals, including McDonald's and McKinsey, were allegedly involved in a commercial bribery case in Shanghai.

It said some IT department directors from these companies allegedly received bribes amounting to 4 million yuan from a local computer network firm.

The case is still under investigation, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Scholars have been calling for effective laws to curb commercial corruption since 2004.

Mei Xinyu, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said it is essential China introduces special laws on commercial bribes as in many developed countries.

(China Daily 02/16/2007 page1)

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