The former head of surgery at the HKU, John Wong, was spared jail yesterday after being convicted last month of misconduct and false accounting involving more than HK$3 million.
But he was handed a community service order of 240 hours - the maximum allowed. After the hearing at the District Court, Wong, 71, said: 'I am very relieved that it is finished.'
Judge Susana D'Almada Remedios said though the offences were serious, the sentence was based on 'exceptional circumstances'.
She said Wong was a man of exemplary character, highly regarded by doctors, students and patients.
He had carried out pioneering work in keyhole surgery that had received worldwide recognition.
'With his reputation, he could have opted for a lucrative private practice, but he chose to achieve his ideal and spent his whole life working for the less fortunate and to serve the public,'' said the judge.
She said she had also taken into account Wong's advanced age and that the offences were committed late in his life.
Other factors considered were the two-year delay between his arrest and prosecution and that full restitution had been made.
She added that the good name and reputation of Wong had been 'drained'. Wong was convicted last month of two charges each of misconduct and false accounting.
He directed HK$731,347 from two bank accounts belonging to HKU's Skills Development Centre to pay a domestic helper-cum-driver over a five-year period.
But the judge said this was not done out of greed, as the court was told he had a personal fortune of HK$150 million.
Rather, it was because of his 'keen belief' that the university should have contributed to the cost of his commuting.
He asked the university to share the cost of carrying out his duties, but his plea was denied.
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. And he was convicted on two counts of false accounting after he signed 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.
The court heard that the taxation evaded had been fully paid to the Inland Revenue Department.
After sentencing yesterday, Wong shook hands with members of his legal teams and gave a hug to his leading counsel, Graham Harris SC.
It is understood more than 20 mitigating letters were submitted to the court, including one from HKU's vice chancellor Tsui Lap-chee.
Professor Lo Chung-mau, head of HKU's liver transplant team, who attended the hearing, disagreed it was a 'lenient'' sentence.
'The court recognised his contribution to the community,'' Lo said. 'Of the doctors who have graduated from HKU in the past 30 years, most benefited from Professor Wong's coaching.''
The judge commented during the case that it was 'surprising and unfortunate'' that HKU did not have proper control of the Skills Development Centre's trust fund - which received Jockey Club funding, an annual subsidy and free premises from the Hospital Authority - and allowed it to go without supervision from the finance office.
But a spokeswoman for HKU's Faculty of Medicine said: 'The Skills Development Centre is now under supervision by the university's Finance and Enterprises Office.''