Ex-site team leader gets 16 months’ jail for soliciting and accepting bribes of $180,000 from Third Runway Project scaffolders
A former site team leader of a sub-contractor of the Third Runway Project of the Hong Kong International Airport (Third Runway Project), charged by the ICAC for soliciting and accepting bribes totalling over $180,000 from six scaffolders for securing their employment with the sub-contractor, was today (June 23) sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts.
Zhuang Huitao, 32, former site team leader of MLife Engineering Limited (MEL), earlier pleaded guilty to 16 charges – one of agent soliciting an advantage, eight of agent accepting an advantage, and seven of conspiracy for agent(s) to accept an advantage/advantages, contrary to section 9(1)(a) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO) and section 159A of the Crimes Ordinance.
In sentencing, Magistrate Mr Lee Chi-ho reprimanded the defendant for abusing his position to deprive workers of their hard-earned money, while workers were unable to disobey him.
The Magistrate added that being a clean society is a cornerstone of which Hong Kong has been proud. It would be very sad for construction workers if such acts of exploitation were not stopped. The court had to mete out a sentence which would serve as a deterrent.
At the material time, MEL was a sub-contractor of the Third Runway Project responsible for recruiting construction workers to conduct various works. Zhuang was a site team leader of a team of scaffolders. Six of the scaffolders were either introduced by Zhuang or other workers to work in Zhuang’s team.
The court heard that between June 2020 and March 2022, Zhuang solicited a bribe of $100 to $250 per working day from each of the six scaffolders, who acceded to Zhuang’s solicitation as they worried that they would lose the job opportunities. During the period, Zhuang accepted from the six scaffolders bribes totalling over $180,000, including about $60,000 accepted through two other scaffolders in his team – Zhou Sheng and Huang Dehou.
In addition, Zhuang further solicited $100 per day from one of scaffolders after the latter stopped paying bribes.
Earlier this month, co-defendants Zhou, 59, and Huang, 42, were respectively sentenced to three months and four months in jail for assisting Zhuang to collect bribes from other scaffolders. Zhou pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for agents to accept advantages, while Huang was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy for agents to accept advantages after trial.
In recent years, the ICAC had taken a series of enforcement actions against corrupt practice of soliciting and accepting illegal rebates. A total of 23 former employees of the main contractor and a sub-contractor of the Third Runway Project were charged by the ICAC with bribery. Eighteen of them, including the three defendants in this case, had pleaded guilty or were found guilty after trial, receiving sentences up to 16 months in jail. Meanwhile, three others are awaiting plea or trial.
As the relevant corruption investigation is continuing, the ICAC does not rule out further law enforcement actions.
An ICAC spokesperson urges construction workers not to tolerate corruption. Should they be asked to offer advantages in exchange for their employment, they should report to the ICAC immediately. Report corruption hotline: 25 266 366.
The Airport Authority Hong Kong, the relevant main contractor SAPR JV and MEL had rendered full assistance to the ICAC during its investigation into the case.
The prosecution was today represented by Public Prosecutor Lily Yip, assisted by ICAC officer Lawrence Wong.