Alarm at graft after McDonald's HK head arrested

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am

Alarm was expressed yesterday at the growing number of corruption complaints against the restaurant industry, after it became known that anti-graft officers had arrested the Hong Kong head of the McDonald's chain.

The arrest of McDonald's managing director Joseph Lau Sze-shing on suspicion of accepting an advantage was the third such case in the industry this month and the fourth in less than four months.

It came as the Independent Commission Against Corruption said it had recorded 42 reports of bribery in the restaurant industry in the first half of the year, compared with 53 last year, 51 in 2005 and 53 in 2004.

Mr Lau has been granted bail while the ICAC makes further investigations.

No charges have been laid.

The anti-graft commission said it would not comment on an individual case.

McDonald's Restaurants (Hong Kong) said Mr Lau was on leave.

Liam Jeory, the vice-president of Asian corporate relations for McDonald's, said in a statement: 'Any questions should be directed to the related authorities.'

The vice-chairman of the Catering Industries Association, Thomas Woo Chu, said the number of complaints was alarming but not surprising, considering the fact that there were more than 12,000 restaurants in the city.

'The increase in reports and arrests might be caused by increasing awareness of bribery in the industry. This is good. We should not tolerate bribery,' Mr Woo said.

The restaurant industry and the ICAC held a seminar in March on preventing corruption. Another will be organised next month.

'We should arrange more such activities,' Mr Woo said, adding that restaurant owners should make it clear to their suppliers that bribes-for-business were not allowed and ties would be cut if any were discovered.

'This is what I have been doing for years and it has been successful. I believe it is the most effective way to deal with the problem.'

The first McDonald's restaurant was established in the city in 1975, with an outlet in Causeway Bay. There are now over 200 locations.

The last ICAC action against the restaurant industry was on August 6, when 27 people - including staff from a chain of hot pot restaurants - were arrested for allegedly offering and taking bribes.

On August 2, the anti-graft commission arrested nine people, including a chef from one of the city's biggest fast-food restaurants.

In May, ICAC officers arrested 47 people in the restaurant industry over allegations of bribery.