A District Court judge has warned that the prosecution case against tax consultant Deborah Annells would “face some difficulty” in respect of one of the three charges for which she is being tried. Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man made this observation at a hearing last Friday in respect of the third charge she faces, possessing a false instrument.
The details of the charge are that, Annells, “had in her custody or under her control an instrument, namely a Memorandum of Understanding dated the 24th day of March 2014, which was and which she knew or believed to be false, with the intention that she or another would use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person’s prejudice.”
The MOU in question states that Annells had agreed to sell the shares in her business, Azure Tax, to the Zetland Fiduciary Group for US$1 million. The prosecution alleges that the document is a forgery and is based on the original MOU which stated the sale price as HK$1 million.
The judge said he was satisfied that there was evidence to show that she possessed the document but said that just because she possessed the document, it did not mean that she intended to use it again. He pointed out there was no evidence to suggest who the prospective victim might be.
Prosecuting counsel John Marray said that Annells might use it to borrow money. The judge responded by saying this had to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The judge said that Annells’ defence counsel might argue that although the MOU was on the desk in her office Annells did not intend to use it. Marray conceded that he could see the strength of this argument.
Last week’s hearing was to enable the judge to ask questions relating to the final written submissions by counsel. Annells is also charged with attempted fraud and perverting the course of justice.
The charges relate to events in April 2014 when Annells allegedly used the false MOU at a court hearing to obtain a variation of her bail terms so that she could temporarily take back her passport and travel to the UK to visit her sick father. She is also 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.
Responding to questions from the judge Annells’ defence counsel Paul Stephenson said that Annells had been under considerable stress during the time when the alleged crimes occurred.
“Her case is that what has happened has been a couple of accidents in disclosing an MOU of US$1million which was her own affirmation of faith to her self. I ask the court that bizarre as the conduct is, there is room for an element of doubt on those issues.”
Marray for the prosecution said in his closing written submission that, “The defence explanation is based on a series of mistakes and the wrong doing of other persons.”