Tax consultant Deborah Annells was today sentenced in the District Court to four years jail for charges that included fraud, perverting the course of justice and possessing a false instrument. Annells sat impassively in the dock as Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man sentenced her to three and a half years for perverting the course of justice, 18 months for fraud of which six months were to be served consecutively, and twelve months for possessing a false instrument, to be served concurrently.Defence counsel Paul Stephenson said outside the court he had discussed the possibility of an appeal against the sentence with Annells. She has already spent one year and eight months in custody. Even considering a possible reduction in time served for good behaviour, she will still be in custody when her next trial begins in the High Court in July next year. She faces 55 charges of theft and fraud involving more than HK$36 million.
The charges on which she has been found guilty relate to events that occurred in April 2014. At that time she was on police bail in respect of her High Court case. She had attempted to secure a variation to 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. She gave her solicitor Christopher Morley a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that stated that she had agreed to sell her business to Zetland Fiduciary Group for US$1 million. Her counsel Kevin Egan then submitted this document to a magistrates court 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.
Speaking after today’s court hearing, the police officer in charge of the case Senior Inspect Tony Tse who is with the Commercial Crime Bureau explained that the police had had to act quickly after the bail hearing to prevent Annells’ departure from Hong Kong. After she was granted bail on a Friday afternoon, Tse and his team quickly got in touch with the Zetland Fiduciary Group and the landlord of Seabird House and later that evening had established that the MOU submitted to the court and to the landlord was false. The team worked over the weekend to prepare a report and secured advice from the Department of Justice. The following Monday evening the police arrested Annells and searched her office and found the original MOU and the forgery. She appeared in court on Tuesday, the day before she was due to leave Hong Kong.