ICAC finds corrupt conduct against couple for attempts to improperly influence Warringah Council officers

Tuesday 30 June 2009

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has made corrupt conduct findings against two people who, between them, tried to offer three cash payments totalling $600 to two Warringah Council officers in attempts to secure Council building inspection approval for their business premises in Dee Why.

The ICAC's report on an Investigation into attempts to improperly influence Warringah Council officers, released today, found that on three occasions in March 2009 Jin Hua Chen and/or Yu Ling Sun tried to hand envelopes each containing $200 to the officers. There are no findings of corrupt conduct against either of the Council officers, both of whom the report says acted with utmost propriety at all times.

The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with respect to the prosecution of Ms Sun and Mr Chen for offences of corruptly offering an inducement contrary to the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

The investigation arose as a result of a report received from the Council's Internal Ombudsman under section 11 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, which provides that principal officers of a state or local government agency in NSW must report suspected corrupt conduct to the ICAC.

The report stated that the owners of a butchery business at Dee Why (Mr Chen and Ms Sun) had offered a $200 cash bribe to Council Student Planning and Development Assessments Officer, Clint Mills, on 10 March 2009 as he was leaving the business premises after conducting a building inspection. Mr Mills rejected the offer and reported it to Council Senior Building Surveyor, Philip Hoffman. Both men then reported the matter to the appropriate officers at the Council without delay.

During the course of the investigation, Mr Hoffman assisted in a controlled operation (which permits those authorised under the operation to engage in specified activity that would be otherwise unlawful). Mr Hoffman met with Mr Chen and Ms Sun at the business premises on 20 March. On this occasion, Mr Chen placed an envelope in Mr Hoffman's pocket, which was found to contain $200. A further attempt at placing an envelope containing $200 cash into Mr Hoffman's pocket occurred during a controlled operation on 23 March, the offer of which Mr Chen described as "Yeah, just some lucky notes".

Mr Chen and Ms Sun later admitted to the Commission that they were intending to bribe the Council officers. They admitted that it was done to try to speed up the process to enable them to start trading earlier, and it was submitted to the Commission on their behalf that the money they invested in the business was "a huge amount to a working couple,... (and) some of Council's requirements for rectification in respect of the Dee Why premises were perceived by them to be quite unreasonable which may have had the effect of encouraging them to decide to offer the money".

However, the Commission determined in conducting the investigation that "in the event corrupt conduct was established, to send a clear message to the public that providing gifts and money to influence public officials in relation to their official duties is unlawful and won't be tolerated".

The Commission held a public inquiry, as part of this investigation, on 26 May 2009. The ICAC Commissioner, the Hon Jerrold Cripps QC, presided at the inquiry at which Mr Chen and Ms Sun gave evidence.

Fact sheet

Investigation report