Jurisdiction - Macau
Reports and Analysis
Asia Pacific – A Common Tale… Corruption And The Lawyer.

30 December, 2013


Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific


Corruption scandals in Asia continue to grab international media headlines. Lawyers in Asia would benefit from following model countries of anti-corruption to become role models of anti-corruption themselves.


Compliance and corruption scandals in Asia are frequently reported by the international media.


Corruption and the lawyer” was the theme of this year’s 57th UIA Congress held for the first time ever in Asia, in Macao. Such was the importance of the theme to the UIA that an entire morning was dedicated to a series of talks and presentations by lawyers from various different jurisdictions on 1st November 2013.


Discussion about the rule of law and how to achieve justice in China was addressed by Liu Nanping, Senior Partner of PRC law firm Liu & Wang Attorneys at law.


Liu was frank about the corruption that is rife in the Chinese legal system and explained that non-transparency during trials and bribery of judges is not just very common but is considered to be “normal” in the PRC. In the Chinese courts, defendants will usually appear before a bench of Judges, usually three in number and there is always a “Judge in charge”.


Liu explained that as a “safeguard” against the Judge in charge being bribed by either party, any ruling must be by majority vote.


Achieving justice in the PRC still continues to be a great challenge but Liu had a couple of tips he shared with the delegation of over 1,000 international lawyers. Liu recommended that if you have a strong case, it is a good idea to get media coverage of your case. He also advised that if you can produce a “foreign face” in the Court then it is likely that the bench will treat the case differently, since they would not want a foreigner to get an unfavourable impression of the PRC court system.


Zhang Baosheng, Vice President at China University of Political Science and Law reinforced Liu’s position when speaking later about the various barriers to foreigners litigating in China. He explained that distrust, scandals reported by the media, Chinese red-tape or bureaucracy, differences in the law of the PRC as compared with Western jurisdictions, cultural differences and difficulties in translation of documents from Chinese to English and vice versa, all contribute to perceived difficulties of litigation in China and the conclusion that the Court system cannot be trusted.


Lawyers from a wide range of international jurisdictions recognised that corruption touches them all in one way or another.


When asked whether the theme of the Congress directly affects him in his day to day work, Maître Chaabane Bachir, an Algerian lawyer, said, “sometimes clients whether intentionally or unintentionally want to do something which for the lawyer is corruption. The lawyer can easily be made an accomplice to the corruption without any wrongdoing on the part of the lawyer. That is why it is important to have an open discussion with the client to prevent any nasty surprises from arising in the future, not to mention, avoiding criminal sanctions!”


Danish lawyer, Thomas Hanson, also said corruption issues directly affect him in his day to day office life. Hanson said, “we work with many different types of characters on a daily basis. Sometimes one meets a client who is a criminal but there’s no way you could have known that at the outset”.


New South Wales Judge, Judith Gibson spoke about the problems corruption poses and what lawyers can do about it.


Gibson explained that the first hurdle is to identify the problem in order to assess how best to combat corruption. For some people she said, corruption is “just another way of doing business”, but what is important in her opinion, is educating the business community that corruption is bad for business.


Countries with a high corruption index are not able to easily enter other countries’ economies. Corruption not only destroys the financial structure of a country but may also destroy communities of people. It is therefore not something which is good for business.


Lawyers can make a contribution to the international fight against corruption, Gibson advocated, by being compliant with international law and best practice, by using “tactics” and lawyers’ cleverness and finally, by mutual, international cooperation.


So it seems apart from the moral and ethical reasons for fighting the good fight, lawyers, particularly those in Asia, have the opportunity now to augment their stature as model corporate citizens in the public’s eyes, provided they choose to heed Gibson’s advice and become advocates of anti-corruption in what is often a flagrantly corrupt society.


Conventus Law


For further information, please contact:


Scherzade Westwood, Conventus Law

[email protected]

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