Judge cites deliberate act of greed, blatant abuse of power Former deputy privacy commissioner Anthony Lam Wing-hon was jailed for nine months yesterday for fraudulently pocketing HK$108,926 from the public purse. Handing down the jail term for the 60-year-old former high-ranking public officer, District Court Judge Patrick Li Hon-leung said his conduct amounted to 'a deliberate act of greed' and 'most blatant abuse of power'. Lam had been found guilty of claiming more travel allowances than he was entitled to and wilful misconduct during visits to Australia. Defence counsel Graham Harris said outside court there was a 'strong possibility' Lam would appeal. Lam was convicted on three charges of using documents to deceive his principal on three duty trips to Melbourne from 2001 to 2003 and one count of misconduct in public office related to three trips in 2005. He had pleaded not guilty. The judge rejected a plea from Mr Harris for a community service order, saying such a penalty was insufficient to reflect the criminality of the case, especially the misconduct charge. The judge adopted a starting point of 12 months' jail and reduced it for Lam's co-operation in the trial and his repayment in full. Judge Li said Lam used the opportunity of duty visits to repeatedly claim expenses in full on three trips when he knew he was entitled to only 60 per cent because he was staying at his Melbourne home, not a hotel. 'His conduct was not that of an isolated misjudgment or error, but a deliberate act of greed,' the judge said in his ruling. Lam's greed had 'escalated' in 2005 into abuse of power when he became acting privacy commissioner and overturned a decision made in 2002 by his former boss, the judge said. Then commissioner Raymond Tang Yee-bong had refused in July 2002 to grant Lam an allowance to participate as an external member of the audit committee of the Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner. But Lam had claimed full costs for meals, air fares and accommodation for three audit committee sessions in 2005, even though he stayed at his Melbourne home on two trips and was unable to attend the other. The judge said the approval had been based on a 'trust' system, 'but he exploited it for his own benefit'. Lam was suspended from his job after his arrest in August 2005 and his contract was not renewed when his term expired. Mr Harris said Lam had remained unemployed and without income ever since and had lost his gratuity entitlements. The stress of the case had left him with depression and insomnia, needing regular medication. The conviction had already tarnished his previous impeccable character and reputation. Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Roderick Woo Bun said the commission respected the court's ruling. 'The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is publicly funded and has a strict responsibility to account for the use of its money,' he said. He reiterated that the policy for duty passage and overseas subsistence allowance had been reviewed and revised in 2005 to ensure no recurrence. Under the revised system, all officers are required to declare whether or not they have stayed in rented accommodation during overseas duty trips. All hotel accommodation arrangements must be made through the office, and any application for reimbursement must be supported by invoices and receipts. To ensure awareness, any officer going on overseas duty trips will be explicitly reminded of the provision of the allowance system.