Freelance arborist gets 18 months for bribery over tree survey projects
A freelance arborist (D1), charged by the ICAC, was today (August 29) sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment at the Eastern Magistracy after being convicted of conspiracy for a then arborist (D2) of a landscape architecture company (Company A) to accept illegal commissions totalling over $250,000 in relation to the award of tree survey projects.
D1, 32, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy for an agent to accept advantages, contrary to Section 9(1) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and Section 159A of the Crimes Ordinance.
In passing the sentence, Deputy Magistrate Mr Simon Ho Kick-fai said he did not accept the argument that the case merely involved moonlighting. Nevertheless, D1’s acts were related to the affairs of his principal and incurred a financial loss to the latter.
The court heard that at the material time, Company A was a landscape architecture company providing landscape assessment and consultation services.
When Company A faced a labour shortage during peak seasons, D2, a then arborist of Company A, was tasked to subcontract its tree survey projects to freelance arborists, including D1.
In 2012, D1 became freelance arborist of Company A through the introduction of D2. Since then, D1 had been invited by D2 to submit quotations and awarded with multiple tree survey projects.
The court heard that between June 25, 2014 and September 14, 2015, D1 was awarded with 16 tree survey projects worth totalling over $1 million from Company A.
D1 was arrested by ICAC officers on September 14, 2015. When interviewed under caution, D1 admitted that he would share half of each project’s sum with D2 after receiving his payment from Company A.
As a result, over $250,000 was paid to D2 by March 31, 2015 in relation to six completed tree survey projects.
Company A did not allow its employees to accept any advantages as rewards for assisting freelance arborists in securing tree survey projects, the court was told.
D2, 29, was also charged by the ICAC for his role in the bribery scam. After pleading guilty to the joint charge of conspiracy for an agent to accept advantages, Sum was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment at the Eastern Magistracy on July 7, 2016.
Company A had rendered full assistance to the ICAC during its investigation.
The prosecution was today represented by prosecuting counsel Sabrina See, assisted by ICAC officer Wesley Ho.