Snapshot: domestic bribery laws in Singapore

The principal anti-corruption statute in Singapore is the Prevention of Corruption Act 1960 (PCA). The main offence-creating sections are 5 and 6, which prohibit active and passive bribery in the public and private sectors. Section 6 of the PCA specifically prohibits bribery in an agent-principal context, whereas section 5 covers all other instances of bribery. The bribery of domestic public officials is specifically prohibited under sections 11 and 12.

Under section 11 of the PCA, which prohibits bribery of members of parliament, it is an offence for:

    • any person to offer any gratification to a member of parliament as an inducement or reward for the latter’s doing or forbearing to do any act in his or her capacity as a member of parliament; or
    • any member of parliament to solicit or accept any gratification as an inducement or reward for his or her doing or forbearing to do any act in his or her parliamentary capacity.

Under section 12 of the PCA, which prohibits bribery of public officers generally, it is an offence for:

    • any person to offer any gratification to any member of a public body as an inducement or reward for: (1) the member’s voting or abstaining from voting at any meeting of the public body in favour of or against any measure, resolution or question submitted to that public body; (2) the member’s performing or abstaining from performing, or his or her aid in procuring, expediting, delaying, hindering or preventing the performance of, any official act; or (3) the member’s aid in procuring or preventing the passing of any vote or the granting of any contract or advantage in favour of any person; or
    • any member of a public body to solicit or accept such gratification.

Where a public official has received any gratification, there is a statutory presumption under section 8 of the PCA that the gratification was given and received corruptly, unless the contrary is proved. The burden lies on the accused person to show otherwise on a balance of probabilities.

The PCA does not impose liability for simple failure to prevent bribery of a domestic public official. However, the PCA does provide for accessory liability for acts of abetment and conspiracy, if so proved.

The Penal Code 1871 (PC) also contains provisions for bribery offences involving domestic public servants (sections 161 to 164), which include:

    • a public servant taking a gratification, other than legal remuneration, in respect of an official act;
    • a person taking a gratification in order to influence a public servant by corrupt or illegal means;
    • a person taking a gratification to exercise personal influence over a public servant;
    • a public servant abetting any of the above offences; and
    • a public servant obtaining anything of value without consideration, or with consideration that they know to be inadequate, from a person concerned in any proceeding or business transacted by the public servant.

Lastly, the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act 1992 (CDSA) is an important accessory legislation that provides for the confiscation of corrupt and other criminal proceeds.

Scope of prohibitions

Does the law prohibit both the paying and receiving of a bribe?

Both paying and receiving bribes are prohibited.

Definition of a domestic public official

How does your law define a domestic public official, and does that definition include employees of state-owned or state-controlled companies?

Under the PCA, section 2 defines ‘public body’ to mean ‘any corporation, board, council, commissioners or other body that has power to act under and for the purposes of any written law relating to public health or to undertakings or public utility or otherwise to administer money levied or raised by rates or charges in pursuance of any written law’. It was held in Tey Tsun Hang v Public Prosecutor [2014] 2 SLR 1189 that the National University of Singapore was a public body within the meaning of section 2 of the PCA as ‘public utility’ included the provision of public tertiary education.

The PC however defines ‘public servant’ differently under section 21 to include every:

    • officer in the Singapore Armed Forces;
    • judge;
    • officer of a court of justice;
    • assessor assisting a court of justice or public servant;
    • arbitrator;
    • officeholder who is empowered to confine any person;
    • officer of the government;
    • officer or employee of a public body established for a public function;
    • officer acting on behalf of the government; and
    • member of the Public Service Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, or Legal Service Commission.

Employees of state-owned or state-controlled companies may or may not fall within either the PCA definition of ‘public body’ or the PC definition of ‘public servant’ depending on the nature of the company.

Gifts, travel and entertainment

Describe any restrictions on providing domestic officials with gifts, travel expenses, meals or entertainment. Do the restrictions apply to both the providing and the receiving of such benefits?

Any ‘gratification’ provided or received with the requisite corrupt intent will be caught by anti-bribery laws.

Under section 2 of the PCA, ‘gratification’ is defined widely as including:

    • money;
    • gifts;
    • loans;
    • fees;
    • rewards;
    • commissions;
    • valuable security;
    • property or interest in property of any description, whether movable or immovable;
    • any office, employment, or contract;
    • any payment, release, discharge or liquidation of any loan, obligation or other liability whatsoever, whether in full or in part; and
    • any service, favour, or advantage of any description whatsoever, including protection from any disciplinary or penal penalty and the exercise of or the forbearance from the exercise of any right or any official power or duty.

The Court of Appeal has observed that the above statutory definition is not exhaustive and that parliament intended the term to be of ‘wide application’: Public Prosecutor v Teo Chu Ha [2014] SGCA 45. The PCA also disallows any defence that the gratification was customary in any profession, trade, vocation, or calling.

Under the PC, ‘gratification’ is not expressly defined but its explanatory note states that it is not limited to money or anything with monetary value.

Facilitating payments

Have the domestic bribery laws been enforced with respect to facilitating or ‘grease’ payments?

Yes, facilitation or ‘grease’ payments to foreign officials are not permitted. Section 12(a)(ii) of the PCA expressly prohibits the offer of gratification to any member of a public body as an inducement or reward for, among other things, that member ‘expediting’ any official act.

Public official participation in commercial activities

What are the restrictions on a domestic public official participating in commercial activities while in office?

Under the Singapore Government Instruction Manual, which governs all public officers in Singapore:

    • public officers are required to seek approval before they can engage in outside activities that are related to their official duties and in outside employment, and are to ensure that there should be no conflict of interest between their official duties and their participation in these outside activities; and
    • public officers are required to make annual declarations of interests in investments and properties to the head of their agency, including investments and properties owned by their spouse and financially dependent children.

The Code of Conduct for Ministers also provides a comprehensive list of obligations setting out how ministers are to act and arrange their personal affairs. Some of the restrictions set out therein include a prohibition on ministers against practising in a professional firm (or other business) for remuneration or playing a part in the day-to-day management of the firm’s affairs. A minister also cannot enter into transactions where his financial interests may, even conceivably, come into conflict with his public duties. The Code of Conduct also provides strict restrictions on the types of gifts that a minister may accept.

On 22 November 2023, parliament passed the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 3) Bill to create a framework in the Constitution for Singapore’s ministers and the President to be able to take on international roles in their private capacities, if in line with national interest. Prior to this latest amendment, the Constitution only allowed for ministers to serve international appointments in their private capacities if permission was granted by the Prime Minister, and for the President to take on public or international roles only in his official capacity.

Payments through intermediaries or third parties

In what circumstances do the laws prohibit payments through intermediaries or third parties to domestic public officials?

All corrupt payments to domestic public officials, whether through intermediaries or other third parties, are prohibited. Section 5 of the PCA expressly provides that the offence of bribery can be made out by a person either acting ‘by himself or in conjunction with any other person’.

There may also be liability for any intermediaries under the PCA or CDSA, or both.

Individual and corporate liability

Can both individuals and companies be held liable for violating the domestic bribery rules?

Both individuals and corporate entities can be held liable for bribery offences, including bribery of a domestic public official. The primary bribery offences in the PCA and PC apply to all ‘persons’. The Interpretation Act 1965 provides that ‘person’ includes ‘any company or association or body of persons, corporate or unincorporate’.

Private commercial bribery

To what extent does your country’s domestic anti-bribery law also prohibit private commercial bribery?

The general prohibitions against bribery in sections 5 and 6 of the PCA apply to both public and private sector corruption.


What defences and exemptions are available to those accused of domestic bribery violations?

The general exceptions set out in the Penal Code 1871 would technically apply to domestic bribery violations. For example, the defences of mistake and accident under sections 79 and 80, respectfully, could be applicable. However, given the nature of domestic bribery violations, the factual matrices on which such defences could be applicable are exceedingly rare.

There are no other specific defences or exceptions for domestic bribery violations. Apart from the above, the only way for an acquittal is by successfully raising a reasonable doubt over at least one of the constituent elements of the bribery charge.

Agency enforcement

What government agencies enforce the domestic bribery laws and regulations?

Attorney-General’s Chambers

In Singapore, the Attorney-General is also the Public Prosecutor who is solely responsible for the control and direction of all criminal prosecutions and proceedings. Officers of the Attorney-General’s Chambers Crime Division, particularly from the Financial and Technology Crime Division, act as deputy public prosecutors who conduct the prosecutions and appeals of most white-collar crimes and commercial offences.

Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau

This is the exclusive anti-corruption agency dedicated to investigating offences under the PCA and CDSA, and other related offences. It is an independent body that reports directly to the Prime Minister’s office, and its officers have extensive investigative powers under the PCA in addition to the general investigative powers given to the police by the CPC.

Singapore Police Force

The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) is the main department of the Singapore Police Force responsible for investigating white-collar, financial, and corporate offences under the PC, the Companies Act 1967, and the Security and Futures Act 2001, among others. CAD officers have wide investigative powers under the CPC to interview and record statements from individuals and order the production of documents. Warrants may be issued in the event of non-compliance.

Monetary Authority of Singapore

As Singapore’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is responsible for regulating and supervising the financial services sector. It can, in the course of investigations, require the disclosure of information about securities and futures contracts, and the production of companies’ books, search companies’ premises, and interview individuals. Together with the CAD, it also exercises investigative powers into market misconduct offences (eg, insider trading and market manipulation), money laundering, and terrorism financing.

Patterns in enforcement

Describe any recent shifts in the patterns of enforcement of the domestic bribery rules.

Domestic anti-bribery laws have always been and continue to be strictly enforced. In its Annual Statistics 2022, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau reported that the corruption situation in Singapore remained firmly under control. It received 234 corruption-related reports in 2022, a 6 per cent decrease from the 249 corruption-related reports received the year before in 2021. Private sector corruption cases continued to form the majority (86 per cent) of cases investigated in 2022.

Prosecution of foreign companies

In what circumstances can foreign companies be prosecuted for domestic bribery?

Foreign companies can be prosecuted for bribery if it was committed in Singapore.

In addition, section 29 of the PCA read with section 108A of the PC would expose a foreign company in Singapore to prosecution for abetting bribery even if the actual act of bribery took place overseas.


What are the sanctions for individuals and companies that violate the domestic bribery rules?

Sanctions include a fine, a term of imprisonment, or both.

Under the PCA, the prescribed punishment under sections 5 and 6 is a fine not exceeding S$100,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both. For offences involving a government contract or the bribery of a member of parliament or public body, the punishment is enhanced to a fine not exceeding S$100,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or both. The court may also order the offender to pay a further penalty equivalent to the amount of corrupt gratification received under section 13 of the PCA.

Under the PC, individuals and companies may be liable for a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.

Further, under section 7 of the CDSA, the court also has the power to order the confiscation of any benefits derived by an individual or company convicted of bribery.

Recent decisions and investigations

Identify and summarise recent landmark decisions and investigations involving domestic bribery laws, including any investigations or decisions involving foreign companies.

Enhanced sentencing framework for private sector corruption

In October 2022, the High Court laid down an enhanced sentencing framework for private sector corruption in Goh Ngak Eng v Public Prosecutor [2022] SGHC 254, departing from the previous framework in Takaaki Masui v Public Prosecutor [2020] SGHC 265, which was criticised by the Court of Appeal for being too complex and ‘prone to cause confusion and uncertainty’. Applying the revised framework, the High Court in Goh Ngak Eng more than doubled the offender’s initial sentence despite the lack of a cross-appeal by the prosecution on sentence.

The Modec case

On 11 November 2022, an ex-employee of Modec Offshore Production Systems (Singapore) was charged with corruption and cheating offences involving around S$9.8 million. He allegedly conspired with four others between 2011 and 2016 to accept bribes totalling S$1.3 million from the director of Neptune Ship Management in exchange for advancing the business interests of Neptune with Modec. He was also charged with disguising benefits from criminal conduct in the form of fictitious invoices for payments between the two companies, as well as cheating Modec into paying around S$8 million to Staghorn Marine Services. The case is ongoing as at the time of writing. In June 2023, an accused person involved in this matter failed in an administrative review to prevent the Attorney-General’s Chambers from proceeding with the charges against him (Kottakki Srinivas Patnaik v Attorney-General [2023] SGHC 174).

The SIA Manager case

On 8 November 2022, a former Singapore Airlines (SIA) manager was charged with corruption and money laundering after he allegedly gave an interior design firm confidential information to help it bid for three SIA tenders. He allegedly engaged in a conspiracy with a freelance designer to receive S$474,500 from the interior design firm’s manager in return for favouring his firm. He is also said to have allegedly used around S$156,000 of the bribes received to buy Microsoft shares. The case against the SIA manager is ongoing as at the time of writing. The freelance designer was sentenced in September 2023 to eight months’ imprisonment and a penalty of more than $103,700.

The Aoxing Ship Management case

On 22 September 2022, the former managing director of Aoxing Ship Management Singapore Pte Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sinochem Shipping Singapore Pte Ltd, was convicted of five corruption charges, one cheating charge, and one charge under the CDSA after pleading guilty to them. He had initially been charged with 21 counts of corruption involving allegations of obtaining or attempting to obtain corrupt gratification of around S$364,400 from various vendors. He was sentenced in October 2023 to a global sentence of 20 months’ imprisonment.

The Heineken case

On 10 March 2022, the general manager of Heineken Asia Pacific Export and three others were charged with corruption and money laundering offences involving S$10 million across two alleged schemes committed between March 2017 and July 2019. One scheme allegedly led Heineken to award a sales and purchase agreement worth about S$6 million to a wholesale trade firm run by the general manager’s spouse. Another scheme involved misleading Heineken into selling about 2.1 million litres of beer products worth about S$4.1 million to another one of his spouse’s businesses. The case is ongoing as at the time of writing.

The Wildlife Reserves Singapore case

On 10 September 2021, a former employee of Wildlife Reserves Singapore was charged with corruption involving more than S$2.4 million in a price-fixing scheme. He allegedly received bribes from several people over a period of 11 years. He was sentenced in October 2023 to 26 months’ imprisonment. His former subordinate, who received more than S$51,000 in bribes for not reporting the scheme, was jailed in March 2022 for nine months.

The SingPost case

On 11 May 2021, a former senior vice-president at Singapore Post was charged with attempting to seek a bribe of S$1 million from the chief operating officer of a subcontractor for construction works for SingPost. He allegedly asked for the bribe in return for recommending the company as a preferred subcontractor for certain works in the construction of the SingPost Centre Retail Mall Redevelopment and the SingPost Office Asset Enhancement Initiative. He was convicted after trial and sentenced in November 2023 to an imprisonment sentence of six months and one week.

The SembCorp Marine case

In August 2023, a Sembcorp Marine commercial executive was charged with corruptly obtaining and attempting to obtain cash gratification totalling at least S$202,877 between 2015 and 2021. The accused person faces 14 charges involving nine different contractors from nine different companies. The matter is ongoing at the time of writing.

Investigations into minister in cabinet

In July 2023, CPIB announced that it was investigating Singapore’s Minister for Transport in relation to a ‘case uncovered by CPIB’. No further details relating the case are available at the time of writing, save that the matter also involves the billionaire managing director of SGX-listed Hotel Properties Ltd. The minister has been placed on leave of absence pending investigations.

Authors: Eugene Thuraisingam, Johannes Hadi, Ng Yuan Siang

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