The researcher was an associate professor in the Department of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU). She was also Associate Director of the Southeast Asian Research Centre (SARC) at CityU.
In 2006, SARC obtained a grant of HK$53 million from the British Government to conduct a research project, ‘Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts’. The Defendant (D) was the main person responsible for the project.
D requested quotations from four service providers for the supply of IT services for the project, but only one service provider (Locus) responded. D’s sister-in-law was a director and major shareholder of Locus, and the D’s brother was an employee of Locus.
D submitted a Purchase Requisition Form and a Procurement Form to the Finance Office of CityU for the payment of $10,000 to Locus for initial consultancy work in connection with the provision of IT services for the project. In a letter attached to the Forms, D declared that her sister-in-law was a director of Locus and that her brother was an employee of Locus, but that she was at arm’s length from Locus and had exercised due diligence in seeking alternative suppliers. The CityU Finance Office paid $10,000 to Locus without raising any questions or objections.
D then signed a contract with Locus for the provision of IT services at a cost of $1 million. D then requested the CityU Finance Office to transfer $33,982 to Lotus as part-payment for IT services pursuant to the contract. D referred to her previous letter declaring her relationship with Locus. The Finance Office approved and carried out the transfer.
After a member of staff in the Finance Office suggested to D that she could request payment for the entire sum of $1 million pursuant to the contract (rather than submitting requests on a piecemeal basis), D re-submitted a request for payment of the entire sum of $1 million. On processing this request, the Finance Office requested further information from D explaining why the contract was awarded to Locus. In providing supplemental information to the Finance Office, D again declared her brother and her sister-in-law’s interests in Locus.
The Finance Office informed D that she was not entitled to conclude the contract with Locus due to the conflict of interest (referring to the relevant section of the Staff Handbook of CityU). As a result, the contract was cancelled and the Finance Office ordered a new tendering exercise to select a service provider in place of Locus for the provision of IT services for the project.
In the new tendering exercise, there were two bidders – Sparkland and Automated Systems. Sparkland was owned by P (a friend of D’s brother) and, ostenably, P made a bid in Sparkland’s name when in fact the actual service provider was still Locus.
D recommended Sparkland without declaring any conflict of interest (she expressly stated that she did not know and had never met anyone from Sparkland). The Finance Office awarded the contract to Sparkland because of the Defendant’s recommendation and also because it submitted a better price than Automated Systems.
Following an investigation by the ICAC, D (as well as her brother, sister-in-law and P) was charged with conspiracy to defraud.
Conviction and Appeal
Following a trial in the District Court, all four individuals were convicted. D was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for 3 years. The Court of Appeal dismissed the four defendants’ leave to appeal.
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