Ex-HKU surgery head guilty of misconduct

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2012, 12:00am


The former head of surgery at the University of Hong Kong has been found guilty of misconduct and false accounting involving more than HK$3 million after he used university funds to pay his domestic helper and failed to report theft by a subordinate.

Convicting Professor John Wong, 71, on two counts each of misconduct in public office and false accounting, District Court judge Susana D'Almada Remedios allowed him bail pending sentencing, but said this was no indication he would not go to jail.

The judge said Wong, who had personal wealth of HK$150 million, was a man of 'unblemished character' who might be considered less likely to commit a crime.

But she said that as a university employee and a person in public office, he had a duty to protect the funds of the Skilled Development Centre and its Advanced Trauma Life Support course, and not allow them to be misused.

Wong, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, looked pale but calm after the verdict, and declined to comment on the ruling. He was found guilty of directing HK$731,347 from two bank accounts belonging to the centre to the salary and other employment-related expenses of a domestic helper-cum-driver.

The centre, which the department set up in 1995, provides medical training to students, interns, nurses and doctors. The court heard that it received Jockey Club funding and an annual subsidy, and free premises from the Hospital Authority, with staff from the university.

Wong was also found guilty of failing to tell the university that a subordinate, June Chan Sau-hung - who was jailed for 22 months in 2010 - had stolen more than HK$2.6 million from the centre's bank accounts between 2004 and 2006. The judge dismissed Wong's defence that he chose not to report the embezzlement, as she was only stealing from his private trust fund and had to take care of her orphaned niece.

Of his use of the centre's funds to pay his helper for five years from 2002 to 2007, the judge rejected Wong's claim that there was a 50/50 arrangement between the university and his trust fund as the driver had to pick up the university's overseas guests.

The judge said Wong's secretary knew nothing about such arrangements, noting that all payments were recorded not as salary but as 'travel expenses', and no payment from Wong's private trust fund had been made for the five years.

From this and other evidence only one inference could be drawn, that 'there was no such arrangement'.

The judge said the reason Wong had allowed Chan to escape unpunished was that he knew it would lead to an investigation of his misuse of university funds to pay the domestic helper. She said that although Wong was not charged with allowing a breach of condition of stay in connection with the helper's driving duties, she was 'astonished' he had never thought such a deviation from domestic work might breach the law.

Wong was also found guilty of false accounting by signing the director's reports of Unisurgical - a company in which he was the sole shareholder and director - knowing that dummy invoices from a travel firm resulted in his company taxes being underpaid by HK$123,314.