Tax consultant Deborah Annells is due to appear in the District Court tomorrow for the start of the first of two trials she faces for alleged offences that include attempted fraud, perverting the course of justice and theft.
At tomorrow’s trial she faces charges of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, attempted fraud, and possessing a false instrument. Thirteen days have been reserved for the trial and the prosecution intends to bring 19 witnesses which include Kevin Egan who was her barrister at the hearing when the alleged offences occurred and Christopher Morley who was her solicitor at the time.
Annells is a well-known tax consultant in Hong Kong. She was the founder and chief executive of AzureTax, a company that specialises in arranging the tax affairs of expatriates in Hong Kong, which sometimes involved the setting up of trust funds. She is a past president of the Rotary Club of Hong Kong, and has sat on the general committee of the British Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of its finance committee.
The charges relate to events in April 2014 when Annells allegedly used a false document at a court hearing to obtain a variation of her bail terms. She also faces one count of fraud, where she is alleged to have attempted to use the same false document to rent office premises.
At the time she was on bail having been charged in November 2013 and again in February 2014 with a total of 55 counts of theft and fraud involving more than HK$36 million. She will have to undergo a trial in the High Court to deal with these charges. Following her alleged use of a false document in April 2014, Annells was remanded in custody. Shortly afterwards she applied for legal aid and her application was initially denied. She appealed and the Legal Aid Department has been involved in a protracted investigation lasting about a year to determine Annells’ eligibility. Responding to the magistrates’ questioning at a court hearing in January earlier this year, about why it was taking so long to assess her, Annells said: “I have given them all my bank statements; they know I have absolutely no money. I have committed all my worldly goods and earnings to my business.”
Annells told the magistrate that the Legal Aid Department had asked for information on various companies. “Many of those companies have been sold, are dormant or owned by third parties,” she said, adding “it is very difficult to provide this information while in custody”.
The issue was recently resolved when Annells was granted legal aid, enabling her trial to start.