Legal conundrum over sexual bribery

Updated: 2013-07-18 09:47

By Luo Wangshu in Chongqing and Cao Yin in Beijing (China Daily)

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A tough challenge

The United Nations Convention against Corruption defines a bribe as an "improper benefit". According to Ren, that means "both sex and money can be seen as forms of bribery. In other words, the two are the same".

However, enacting a specific law or widening the definition of bribery will be difficult, according to Ren.

Yi Shenghua, a Beijing-based lawyer who has specialized in corruption cases for 10 years, said, "It's hard to identify, or obtain evidence of, sexual bribery," he said. "Corruption through money involves a financial transaction, but sexual bribery doesn't. It's a 'trade' between the official and the woman, which means it's not easy to expose unless the two fall out and the woman decides to go public about it."

Yi pointed out that the major challenge is to distinguish between a purely sexual transaction, instigated for the benefit of the person involved or for a third party, and an illicit affair based on genuine affection.

Legal conundrum over sexual bribery

Sexual bribery also touches on morality. "Sometimes a person's actions can only be criticized from a moral standpoint and will not result in serious punishment," he added.

In addition to high-ranking officials who indulge in "improper love", those at the grassroots are not without fault, according to Yang Lin, director of the anti-graft department of the prosecuting authority in the Changping district of Beijing.

"Mistress-involved crimes have expanded from ministerial-level officials to medium- and even junior-level officials in recent years," Yang said, adding that the government, especially the disciplinary authorities, cannot afford to ignore or indulge such behavior.

For example, a high-ranking member of Beijing's municipal management bureau spent 1.25 million yuan on an apartment and car for his mistress and accepted bribes worth nearly 2 million yuan. Sexual bribery is not just an issue that relates to top officials and attention should also be paid to the problem when it affects the grassroots, she added.

However, formulating a specific law and widening the definition of bribery will take time, and experts and lawyers have pondered ways of accelerating a solution to the problem.

Zhu suggested the Party should impose harsher punishments on those discovered to have accepted bribes of a sexual nature, while Yi said judges should be encouraged to use their own discretion to hand out heavier penalties.