With a court system seen as unresponsive, several million people annually take their grievances to the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, a much-maligned Communist Party-run institution that receives petitions and is rooted in imperial China. Petitioners rarely succeed in their claims and sometimes end up jailed, academics say.
In recent months, Beijing has said it is trying to modernize the petitioning system, including by allowing appeals online. A top bureau official was recently removed on allegations of corruption.
SFO launches formal bribery investigation at Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce says Serious Fraud Office is investigating allegations of bribery and corruption in overseas markets
Photo: Getty Images
Rolls-Royce, the aero-engine manufacturer, said the Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal investigation into bribery and corruption allegations involving intermediaries in overseas markets.
The company said in a statement on Monday: "Further to our announcement of December 6th 2012 relating to concerns about bribery and corruption in overseas markets, we have been informed by the Serious Fraud Office that it has now commenced a formal investigation into these matters."
Shares in Rolls-Royce slipped 0.5pc in early trading as the SFO confirmed the "Director of the Serious Fraud Office has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery at Rolls Royce”.
The SFO approached Rolls-Royce in early 2012 and requested information from the company about allegations of malpractice in Indonesia and China.Dick Taylor, a former Rolls-Royce employee, alleged the company handed a $20m (£12.9m) bribe and a blue Rolls-Royce car to Tommy Suharto, the son of Indonesia's former dictator, General Suharto, in return for persuading the country's flag-carrier, Garuda, to buy Rolls' Trent 700 engines for its Airbus A330 wide-bodied aircraft.
The SFO's announcement comes almost a month after Mr Suharto, made a surprise intervention in the investigation by denying he ever received bribes from the engine maker.
Lawyers acting for Mr Suharto wrote to David Green, director of the Serious Fraud Office, in an attempt to distance himself from the agency’s inquiry into the bribery claims.
The allegations were widely reported as it emerged that the SFO had alerted Rolls to emails relating to the bribery claims, which both the agency and the company are investigating.
In the letter to Mr Green, Elza Syarief, the lawyers for Mr Suharto, said: “Over the past year there have been a series of press reports which have repeated an erroneous allegation that, more than 20 years ago, Mr Hutomo Manda Putra – known as Tommy Suharto – had received $20m and a Rolls-Royce car.”
It went on to say: “For the record, an on behalf of Mr Suharto, we would like to state categorically that he did not, and has never, received monies or a car from Rolls-Royce and nor did he recommend their engines to Garuda.
“These allegations are false and have arisen, it appears, via internet comments posted by an ex-employee, not through any formal source.”
Mr Suharto stressed that neither he nor his representatives had ever “been contacted by the SFO in relation” to the Rolls bribery allegations but “would be happy to co-operate should you wish to discuss the matter further”.
The credibility of Mr Suharto’s denials was questioned in some quarters, however, given his conviction in 2002 for ordering the assassination of an Indonesian supreme court judge. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail but released after four.
Rolls-Royce also has been accused of making payments in return for a 2005 contract with Air China and a deal with China Eastern Airlines in 2010.
John Rishton, Rolls-Royce chief executive, said last December: “I want to make it crystal clear that neither I nor the board will tolerate improper business conduct of any sort and will take all necessary action to ensure compliance. This is a company with exceptional prospects and I will no