Customs officers told to steer clear of 'dubious characters'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2001, 12:00am

Customs officers have been warned to avoid accepting entertainment provided by vice operators or 'persons of dubious character' under a revised code of conduct.

The new clause was added after a Customs superintendent was accused of tipping off a pirated CD manufacturer about a raid during a dinner in 1998.

Although Gregory Wong Pui-sham was acquitted of corruption charges last year, the department, and the Civil Service Bureau are discussing whether he should face disciplinary action for socialising with undesirable characters. Mr Wong remains suspended on full pay until his fate is decided.

Another new clause has also been added to the code barring officers from accepting free services from colleagues, subordinates or people with whom they have official dealings. They are also barred from accepting gifts from subordinates.

Unlike the police, there is no clause requiring officers to keep their hair its natural colour, but Acting Commissioner of Customs and Excise Raymond Li Wai-man said there were rules requiring hair be kept neat and tidy. 'Of course you cannot dye your hair different colours when you're wearing the uniform,' Mr Li said.

He said since the Code on Conduct and Discipline was introduced in December 1999, the number of officers seeking advice on what to do with gifts had surged 118 per cent from 228 in 1999 to 497 last year.

For gifts of no commercial value, officers were asked to donate them to departmental social functions or in some cases allowed to keep them. But there were also cases where officers were asked to return the gifts.

'There was a case where an assistant commissioner won the top lucky draw prize of a laptop computer at a charity ball. As he attended the function as a guest, he was asked to return the gift,' Mr Li said. He said no officers had breached the code last year.

There were 51 disciplinary cases not related to the code, including 38 minor offences such as losing warrant cards, and warnings were issued. The remaining 13 cases were more serious, including disobeying orders. Hearings on nine of the cases have been completed, with officers reprimanded.