Criminal Law

Offence of Corruption (Penalties, Presumptions and Defences)

By 17 January 2022 No Comments

What amounts to corruption?

In Singapore, the offence of corruption is set out in Sections 5 and 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (“PCA”). Section 5 deals with general cases while Section 6 applies to agents who commit corruption in respect of their principal’s affairs.

For the Prosecution to prove an offence of corruption, the following 4 elements must be shown:

  • The offender gave or received gratification (e.g. money, loan, employment, sexual services);
  • The gratification was an inducement or reward for any act/favour/disfavour;
  • There was an objectively corrupt/dishonest element in the transaction; and
  • The offender gave or accepted the gratification with guilty knowledge.

When charged with corruption, the following do not count as valid defences:

  • “I did not in fact show favour to the giver of the bribe.”
  • “I did not have the opportunity/power to show favour to the giver of the bribe.”

Possible defences:

  • “The gratification was purely a gift that was given/received without any expected favour in return.”
  • “I was not being dishonest and was authorised by my supervisor to enter into the transaction.”


If the recipient of any gratification is a government officer or agent, it is presumed that such gratification was given or received corruptly as an inducement or reward. The burden would then be on the accused person to prove otherwise.

What are the different offences for corruption?  

OffenceProvisionAdditional elements to be provenPrescribed punishment
OffenceSection 5 of the PCA-Fine up to $100,000, or imprisonment up to 5 years, or both.
OffenceSection 6 of the PCAGratification is made to an agent as an inducement or reward in relation to his principal’s affairs. Fine up to $100,000, or imprisonment up to 5 years, or both.
OffenceSections 7 and 12 of the PCA• Gratification is made as an inducement or reward in relation to a public or government contract; or
• Gratification is made to a member of a public body as an inducement or reward in relation to his public office or powers.
Fine up to $100,000, or imprisonment up to 7 years, or both.

What penalties can one expect for corruption?

Due to the fact-sensitive nature of corruption cases, courts have adopted a robust 5-step approach in sentencing offenders. At the first step, courts will refer to the following table to identify the relevant factors that go towards harm and culpability:

Factors going towards harmFactors going towards culpability
• Actual loss caused to principal.
• Benefit to the giver of gratification.
• Harm caused to the giver of gratification.
• Type and extent of loss to third parties.
• Public disquiet.
• Offences committed as part of a group or syndicate.
• Involvement of a transnational element.
• Amount or value of gratification given or received.
• Degree of planning and premeditation.
• Level of sophistication.
• Duration of offending.
• Extent of the offender’s abuse of position and breach of trust.
• Offender’s motive in committing the offence.
• The presence of threats, pressure or coercion.
• Amount or value of gratification given or received.

At the second and third step, courts will decide what is the level of harm and culpability, before identifying a “starting point” sentence with reference to the following diagrams:

For purely private sector corruption, with/without agent (PCA Sections 5 and 6):

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For public sector corruption (PCA Sections 7 and 12):

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Finally, at the fourth and fifth step, courts will adjust the sentence according to the following offender-specific factors and ensure that the total sentence is proportionate to the seriousness of the offender’s offences:

Aggravating factorsMitigating factors
a. Offences taken into consideration for sentencing purposes.
b. Relevant antecedents.
c. Evident lack of remorse.
a. A guilty plea.
b. Co-operation with the authorities.
c. Actions taken to minimise harm to victims.