COMPLAINTS against graft have reached a record, comparable with figures when the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was set up 19 years ago. The rising trend was revealed yesterday by ICAC commissioner Bertrand de Speville who will go to Guangdong and Beijing on Monday to discuss cross-border co-operation on information exchange and case referral on corruption. Mr de Speville said monthly levels of corruption complaints this year had been higher than at any time since 1975. In the first nine months this year, the ICAC received 2,445 corruption reports - 169 more than the whole of last year. ''We have not seen such a figure since 1974 and 1975 when the commission apparently reaped the pent up concern of the public from pre-ICAC days,'' Mr de Speville said. ''These figures, while giving cause for concern, also provide encouraging signs; they show that the community will not tolerate corruption; they show that the community, by reporting, expects the commission to do something about it.'' Mr de Speville said the number of complaints would exceed 3,000 by the end of the year if the present rate of reporting continued. The figure will be comparable with the total number of complaints of 3,189 and 3,179 in 1974 and 1975 respectively. To tackle the increase, the ICAC will have an additional investigation team comprising 40 officers and create a second deputy director of operation post with additional resources promised by Governor Chris Patten in his second policy address. Fight Crime Committee member Justein Wong Chun said the jump in corruption complaints was alarming and a cause for public concern. ''Unless the ICAC demonstrates that corruption is not to be tolerated, the general public may have the impression that bribery is the way to do business. People will be tempted to bribe to get their way,'' Mr Wong said. Kroll Associates, a corporate intelligence company doubted if the ICAC even with its additional resources could keep pace with the increase in graft. The company's director of operations Stephen Vickers said they had detected a substantial increase in corruption activity, some of which was not reported. Mr Vickers said those who have made money in fraudulent, triad and organised activities are moving into foreign exchange and semi-legitimate businesses. ''Their business practice is quite different from that of normal businessmen,'' Mr Vickers said. He advised the public to exercise due diligence before participating in joint ventures with companies which were cash-rich and looked attractive on the surface. Since 1989, 359 China-related allegations were received. Among them, 65 were received so far this year and another 65 were received last year. Mr de Speville said he wanted to step up co-operation with China on the operation front since it was limited to taking witness statements. He would discuss with the Chinese side information exchange and case referral. United Democrat Lee Wing-tat agreed that Hong Kong should establish a case referral system with its Chinese counterparts. ''Many businessmen told me that they were indeed afraid of reporting to the Chinese authority,'' he said. ''They lacked the confidence and were afraid of very grim consequences,'' he said. Mr Lee proposed a referral system by which local businessmen could report to the ICAC on cases of corruption in China and the ICAC would in turn refer the cases to the concerned Chinese provincial procuratorate. Another United Democrat legislator James To Kun-sun said the Government should consider if the ambit of the ICAC could be extended to combat corruption related to Hong Kong but taking place outside the territory. Mr To said the Government was avoiding the crux of the problem if the ICAC could not exercise its power on corruption cases occurring outside Hong Kong. Representative of the General Chamber of Commerce, Jimmy McGregor asked if the ICAC was escaping the crux of the problem if it failed act against the enormous cases of Hong Kong-related corruption taking place in China. Mr de Speville admitted the situation could not be changed overnight. He added: ''It's an uphill task.'' The ICAC commissioner will be accompanied by acting deputy director of operations Tony Kwok Man-wai, the director of Prevention Tony Scott and the director of Community Relations Eddie So Chuen-yee for a visit to China on Monday. During his visit, Mr de Speville will meet Wang Jun, the chief procurator of the Guangdong Provincial People's Procuratorate. The delegation will travel to Beijing on October 17.