Former RTHK radio producer Chan King-chong yesterday lost his appeal against conviction for submitting bogus expense claims at the public broadcaster.
But the Court of Appeal's decision to quash one of a dozen charges against him - conspiracy to defraud - was a 'step forward', he said after the judgment.
'Of course, it would have been best if the appeals for all of the charges were successful, but to me, this is a step forward.'
The 40-year-old said he would not rule out a further appeal, but added that he had run out of fresh arguments to overturn his conviction.
In August, Chan was sentenced to 160 hours of community service following his conviction in the District Court on a dozen fraud charges involving HK$93,900 he claimed in his mother's name for freelance scriptwriting or research that she never performed.
He pleaded not guilty, saying the practice was common at the broadcaster to cover operational expenses. Chan, who is now a speaking coach, argued on appeal that District Court Judge Joseph Yau Chi-lap had not placed sufficient weight on the fact that he was not the only one at RTHK who fudged the expense forms.
The appellate court - Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore, Mr Justice Michael Hartmann and Mr Justice Michael McMahon - rejected that claim, saying it did not absolve Chan.
The court also rejected Chan's claim that prosecutors were obliged to call witnesses who would have confirmed that the practice was widespread. 'The prosecution does not have to call witnesses who may give evidence favourable to a defendant,' the 19-page judgment said. '[Chan] was aware that what he did was wrong, and that the false information he provided ...would deceive those responsible into approving and making the payments.'
But Judge Yau may have been too quick to doubt the testimony of a key prosecution witness, the court said in explaining why it quashed the conspiracy to defraud charge.
'We are concerned that he [the judge] has gone a step too far in drawing the inferences that he did.'
Chan had asked the witness, an assistant programme officer, to file a bogus expense claim. She was worried about the request until another superior gave her the go-ahead.
Judge Yau doubted the woman's claim that she had not intended to defraud the broadcaster. But the evidence might also suggest that the woman - after getting clearance from her boss - felt she was acting properly, the appellate court ruled.
'In those circumstances, the conspiracy unravels and [Chan] is left as a single fraudster,' the ruling said.