The prospect of jail for a former university head of surgery was lifted after the prosecution decided against a review of his original non-custodial sentence over misappropriated funds of more than HK$3 million, an appeal court heard yesterday.
Dr John Wong, 73, had fulfilled 240 hours of community service for misconduct in public office and false accounting involving funds of the University of Hong Kong.
Wong's advanced age and heart disease, which had deteriorated since his conviction in 2012, factored in the prosecution's considerations, prosecutor William Tam Yiu-ho said.
Tam said they had sought legal advice from barrister Tim Owen QC from Britain and found it was fair to drop the application.
"It is an exceptional circumstance for the prosecution to withdraw the application to review the sentence," he told the Court of Appeal.
The court's vice-president, Mr Justice Frank Stock, said the case involved a breach of trust and was serious enough to warrant a jail term.
Stock decided to end the case at this stage, however, considering Wong had served his full sentence and compensated the authorities fully. The judge also noted that the prosecution's application, together with the defendant's appeal against his conviction, had lasted for two years.
Wong withdrew his appeal last month, the court heard.
He was convicted of two counts of misconduct in public office and two of false accounting in the District Court in April 2012.
A subordinate of his stole HK$2.67 million between 2004 and 2006 from the account of a skills development centre, which was under Wong's supervision at the department, but Wong had failed to tell the university.
He also directed HK$731,347 from two of the centre's bank accounts to pay the salary and other expenses of a domestic helper-cum-driver over five years, despite his personal fortune of HK$150 million.
The two charges of false accounting involved Wong using dummy invoices from a travel agency to lower the taxes of his company by HK$123,314.
The prosecution felt a non-custodial sentence did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.
But it had received medical evidence from Wong's legal representative showing he was diagnosed with "ischaemic heart disease", the court heard. The documents revealed his heart functioning had been impaired, and that he could have a heart attack if put under mental stress.