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September 2011 - Corporate & Commercial. Legal Developments by ATMD Bird & Bird LLP .

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Singapore has a reputation for being one of the most corruption-free countries in the world. In the Doing Business 2010 Report ("the Report") issued by the World Bank, Singapore was ranked as the easiest place in the world to conduct business, and was ranked fourth in the world and first in Asia for having the least corruption in its economy.

The Report also ranked Singapore as the most transparent country in the world.


Singapore's reputation for having low levels of corruption is due to several factors, namely: 

  • a successful zero-tolerance government policy towards corruption and the implementation of measures for discouraging corruption which can be traced back to 1965 (when Singapore was established as an independent state); 
  • the stringent regime contained within the Prevention of Corruption Act (the "PCA");
  • the very responsive and effective Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, which deals with any complaints or reported suspicions of corruption; and 
  • institutional safeguards adopted by most government agencies and private enterprises, which aim to prevent and deal with any corrupt or improper practices.

Under the PCA, both the briber and the person being bribed can be guilty of corruption and are liable to the same punishment. In addition, an amount equivalent to the value of any bribe will be imposed as a penalty on the guilty party. If gifts are given by persons dealing with public bodies to public agents, that gift is presumed to be corrupt unless proven otherwise. Punishments may also increase in severity if politicians or public servants are involved in such corrupt acts. The PCA also has extra-territorial effect: this legislation makes no distinction between acts and/or omissions of a citizen whether committed within or outside of Singapore.


In addition to the sharp teeth of the PCA, the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1999 provides the Singaporean police with powers to freeze and confiscate properties and assets obtained by corrupt practices.   


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