Over 600 people work at the government-funded ‘smart city’ research hub ASTRI in Hong Kong’s Science and Technology Park (photo: HKSTP)

Dr Vincent Lau at the Global Youth Entrepreneurs Forum in 2017 (photo: YouTube)

Magistrates today convicted the R&D boss of the government’s smart city research institute with corruption.

Dr Vincent Lau Man-kin, R&D director of Hong Kong Applied Science & Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) was found guilty at the Shatin Magistrates’ Courts of one count of misconduct in public office after an investigation by corruption commission ICAC found Lau signed purchase orders in 2016 and 2017 worth around HK$540,000 for companies he, his wife and his close friend founded or operated.

Lau, who was in charge of three projects and around HK$9.5 million funded by the government’s Innovation and Technology Fund, did not disclose his connections to the companies, as required by ASTRI’s code of conduct, and ICAC investigators found Lau had in fact prepared quotations from Globalactive and Broadlearning Asia himself.

Those companies had been named as proposed vendors in six procurement exercises of computer product in March 2016, says ICAC: the firm’s quotations were the lowest and won six contracts, worth HK$470,000.

In 2017, Lau put forward his own company, Globalactive, yet again, this time for HK$73,000 worth of computer equipment. ASTRI became aware of a connection between Lau and the company, (which Lau founded and of which Lau’s wife was a sole director), and contacted ICAC.

The government founded ASTRI in 2000, aiming to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness in technology-based industries. Most recently, ASTRI founded a joint “innovation lab” with MTR to help the city’s railway operator enhance efficiency and productivity for a “smarter railway”, the institute said.

Lau had a distinguished career prior to his arrest and conviction: in 2015, he was awarded the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) Outstanding ICT Achiever Awards 2015: Consulting Category. His projects include a location-based system for the visually impaired and an app-based training system for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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