The number of corruption complaints may rise during the financial crunch, Independent Commission Against Corruption chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming has warned. 'From the experience of the Asian financial crisis 10 years ago, corruption reports about the private sector rose by 30 per cent,' he told the Legislative Council's security panel yesterday. 'The increase was most prominent in the financial, insurance, securities and building maintenance sectors. Investigations during the crisis were particularly difficult and they generally took a year,' he said. 'We will closely monitor whether corruption cases will increase under the current financial tsunami.' A spokesman for the ICAC later explained that Mr Tong had referred to the increase in corruption reports related to the private sector between 1998 and 2001, a 37 per cent rise from 1,860 to 2,542. Official statistics showed complaints about the public sector had risen by 10 per cent during the same period. Mr Tong noted that the involvement of senior staff members of listed companies in corruption-related commercial frauds was a specific concern, as shown by the ICAC's investigations. 'Mindful of the need to uphold investors' confidence in Hong Kong, we are monitoring the situation closely in partnership with regulators, professional bodies and major chambers of commerce in enhancing ethical and professional standards of listed companies,' the commissioner said. He said the ICAC had been effective in combating corruption in listed companies. The total number of corruption complaints in the first nine months of this year stood at 2,549, a 5 per cent year-on-year drop compared with 2007. Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun urged the ICAC to strengthen its work to raise people's awareness of corruption prevention. 'During good times, many bad practices may just be covered up and they may spark out when an economic crisis comes,' he remarked. Mr Tong also said the ICAC was planning to offer corruption prevention services to cross-border small- and medium-sized enterprises, and would issue a guide for businesses in Hong Kong and Guangdong.