“Crime and Its Control in Greater China”
Speech by Mr. Kwok Man Wai, MBA, FIMgt
Head, Operations Department, ICAC, HKSAR
2nd Annual Symposium on“Crime and Its Control in Greater China”
Organized by the Centre for Criminology
Hong Kong University
on October 26, 2001 (Friday)
“Crime and Its Control in Greater China”
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Wherever we attend international crime conferences and seminars these days, the most popular buzzwords we have heard are “organized crimes”, “corruption” and “globalization”. Hence, we should all congratulate the Hong Kong University Centre for Criminology for taking the initiative to organize a symposium on this very subject. I am well aware of all the hard work that is required in putting together this symposium but I am sure it is extremely worthwhile because this symposium provides a forum for private and public practitioners and researchers in the criminal justice field to interact in their knowledge and expertise and, hopefully, to find a practical solution to problems.
I am therefore honoured to give this opening address. ICAC is universally accepted as a model of success in turning a very corrupt city into one of the relatively corruption-free places on earth. One of the success factors, which I would recommend for your consideration in deliberation in this symposium, is our celebrated 3-pronged strategy which ICAC has adopted in fighting corruption. First, corruption prevention to improve on the system control; second, education, educating the public of the evils of corruption and to enlist public support. Third, enforcement and deterrence. All the 3 prongs are important but personally speaking, I consider deterrence most important. Over the years, I have seen too many examples of persons who are well educated, working in an environment of good management system, yet decided to become corrupt. For them, they have obviously calculated the risk and opportunity cost and considered that the risk is worth taking. For them, they can only be stopped through deterrence, which means an effective law enforcement to ensure they stand a high risk to be caught, coupled with stringent law and deterrent sentences, obviously in balance with the human rights.
Hence, I would like to speak a bit more on law enforcement. In my 36 years' law enforcement experience, I can confirm that organized crimes and corruption are often intertwined. Over the years, ICAC have investigated a wide range of organized crimes facilitated by corruption. Law enforcement officers and even members of the consular corps were found to be corruptly assisting drug traffickers and smugglers of various kinds (We had once arrested the head of the Immigration Service of an African country for selling diplomatic passports to our undercover agent posing as an organized crimes figure!), bank managers for facilitating bank frauds and money laundering, retail staff for perpetrating credit cards frauds, etc.
One thing, however, is certain is that corruption and organized crimes are difficult to investigate.
There are at least 3 unique features:
(a) Firstly the corrupt and the criminals of organized crimes have no national boundary at all.
(b) Secondly, criminals have gone hi-tech. IT can be a useful tool for investigation but at the same time a threat to law enforcement.
(c) Thirdly, conventional methods of investigation are not good enough to tackle organized crimes and corruption. More sophisticated methods, such as undercover operation and professional financial investigation, should be adopted.
I have 3 observations on this subject.
Firstly, I recommend a strong partnership approach. ICAC see great value of a strong partnership with other local and overseas law enforcement agencies. In the old days, when ICAC arrested a government official, this might not be welcomed by his head of department who blamed ICAC for bringing scandal to his department. “Don't wash your dirty linen in the public” is outdated and can only encourage corruption. If the dark days of corruption teach us anything, it is that turning a blind eye to corruption simply will not do. Corruption will only grow bigger. We are pleased that heads of law enforcement agencies today have changed their attitude and are taking a proactive strategy to tackle corruption. Indeed, many of our most successful cases originated from their proactive approach or as a result of joint investigation.
Secondly, is to address the inadequacy of the current criminal justice system. In an organized crime or corruption syndicate, it is often difficult if not impossible to get to the very top and one of the problems is the right of silence. The present system in Hong Kong, which basically follows the old English one, allows the suspects to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement officers. If they have a lawyer, the first thing the lawyer will advise them is to maintain their right of silence. When everyone involved in the case refuses to say anything, our investigation often concludes with no result. Under the new caution system in England, the suspects are now warned that any delayed response to questions may prejudice the defence in subsequent legal proceedings. Their new caution reads like this, “You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.” We believe this new caution strikes a better balance between the human rights of suspects and the public interests to investigate organized crimes. We should consider changing the legislation along similar lines. We should also consider introducing new legislation to protect whistleblowers, witness protection and allowing a greater degree in entrapment to facilitate successful undercover operations.
Thirdly, international co-operation. We all appreciate that organized crimes and corruption these days have no boundary and international co-operation is vital. However, at present, we rely heavily on mutual legal assistance legislation which requires co-operation among law enforcement agencies to go through a strict judicial process which is often time-consuming and complicated. We need to act faster than criminals and there should be a more efficient mechanism amongst law enforcement agencies to call for and obtain assistance at short notice. I hope Interpol can do more and for anti-corruption agencies who are not members of the Interpol, time has come for an international association of anti-corruption agencies to be formed to enhance international co-operation.
I hope I have given you some food for thought for the symposium. Finally, I wish the symposium every success. Thank you.