Chinese University educator fiddles funding claims for research assistants

Cash swindled from Chinese University was spent on vouchers and computer products

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 4:06am

A magistrate yesterday found a former assistant professor guilty of cheating Chinese University out of more than HK$40,000, chastising her for resorting to misleading rhetoric in her defence case.

Magistrate Cheang Kei-hong said yesterday that Tam Choi-fung "indulged in sophistry" when she took the stand after Cheang ruled that she had a case to answer. Tam had earlier pleaded not guilty to seven counts of using documents with intent to deceive her employer.

Earlier, Sha Tin Court heard that Tam, 47, exaggerated payments to six students who worked for her to gather, analyse and input data from November 2009 to August 2011, when she applied for research subsidies. She claimed HK$40,749 more than the students were paid.

Tam was at the time working in the university's education department. She used the money she made by overstating the payments to buy supermarket vouchers, book vouchers and computer products. She claimed the purchases were all for educational purposes.

Testifying in court, a student said he had been asked to use the overstated payments to buy a computer hard disk drive and gift vouchers, but he suspected they were not for teaching and reported the case to the university.

Cheang said Tam "intentionally did not mention the products she purchased" on funding application forms, as the university would not approve them.

In yesterday's mitigation submissions, the court heard that Tam's contract with the university ended in May last year. Tam, who has no criminal record, is now a contracted secondary school teacher.

Mitigation letters from a former colleague and PhD adviser were submitted to the court in a bid for leniency.

Tam has been remanded in custody pending a community service order report for her sentencing on October 7.

The magistrate asked the prosecution to calculate the exact amount that Tam had to compensate the university before he passed sentence, even though the charges alleged that she had unlawfully pocketed HK$40,749.