Tax consultant Deborah Annells had an “illustrious career” in Hong Kong according to her defence counsel, until her arrest. “The professional standing of the defendant is now obviously ruined,” Stephenson said today during mitigation in the District Court.
“ The Defendant had been a well respected accountancy professional since qualifying in 1984, so this is a complete fall from grace such that she will never practice her profession again,” he added.
Annells was last month found guilty by Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man of fraud, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and possession of a false instrument. After Stephenson’s mitigation the Judge adjourned the hearing until December 9th for sentencing.
The charges on which she has been found guilty relate to events that occurred in April 2014. At that time she was already on police 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. This is a separate case which is due to be heard in the High Court in June next year.
The court was told that in April last year she attempted to secure the variation of her bail terms so she could retrieve her passport that was being held by the police and travel to the UK to visit her sick father. The court heard in evidence that she gave her solicitor Christopher Morley a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which stated that she had agreed to sell her business to Zetland Fiduciary Group for US$1 million. The court heard that this was submitted to the magistrates court by her counsel Kevin Egan to support the claim that she was not a flight risk. She also submitted a provisional tenancy agreement from the landlord of an office in Seabird House in Ice House Street, Central. The magistrate granted the variation against the wishes of the police.
After the hearing the police subsequently discovered that the original MOU was for HK$1 million and that the document submitted to the court was a forgery. The police also discovered that Annells had sent the forged MOU to the landlord of the Seabird House office as an indication of her apparent financial strength.
During mitigation Stephenson said that his client insisted that she had strong family, social and business ties in Hong Kong. This was challenged by Judge Yip who said he did not think Annells did have family ties in Hong Kong since her parents and daughter were living in the UK.
“The brunt of my concern here is that the defendant had no strong family ties in Hong Kong, I don’t consider her social ties here to be very strong, and she was financially unsound.” He said that she faced the possibility of a long prison sentence following her trial next year. “So there was every temptation for her not to return to Hong Kong and that goes to the gravity of the charge to pervert the course of justice.”
Stephenson responded by observing, “We are delving into the realms of conjecture,” he said in reference to the possible outcome of Annells’ trial next year.