A BANK manager accused of accepting bribes to approve loans because he wanted to bolster business was incompetent but not criminal, a judge ruled yesterday. Deputy Judge Thomas said John Lau Wing-hung flouted the Standard Chartered Bank's rules, usual banking practice and plain common sense. But he ruled there was not enough evidence to convict the manager of deliberately perpetrating fraud or receiving bribes. Mr Lau, 34, was acquitted of two charges of accepting an advantage and seven of false accounting. Afterwards Mr Lau, who resigned from his $12,000-a-month post with the Standard Chartered Bank 18 months before his arrest, said he was relieved and would try to find a new job. It was alleged that he had wanted to create business after being appointed manager of a new branch in Tsim Sha Tsui in 1989. Prosecutor John Dunn said Mr Lau had recruited middlemen to find people who needed instant cash loans but would normally be rejected by the bank. Mr Lau then evaded internal security checks to approve loans totalling $381,000, and in two cases received thousands of dollars as a reward, Mr Dunn alleged. But Deputy Judge Thomas said he had given Mr Lau the ''benefit of the doubt'' because he could not be sure the bank manager had done wrong deliberately. The judge said Mr Lau might have been incompetent and felt under pressure to meet tough quotas for loan applications. ''He did not follow procedures of the Standard Chartered Bank, the dictates of good banking practice or plain common sense,'' Deputy Judge Thomas said. During the trial, Micah Wong, a senior manager with Standard Chartered, agreed under cross-examination that Mr Lau could have been negligent rather than dishonest. Defence counsel Nigel de Boinville said: ''Mr Lau was not very competent and had been duped. His interpretation of the bank's rules may have been a little lax, but not dishonest.'' Leaving court to return to his wife and children, Mr Lau said: ''This has been hanging over me for a long time. I'm very relieved.''