Lai See

Writ brings new twist to Deborah Annells saga

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 2:47am

The Deborah Annells saga continues with another of her clients taking out a High Court writ against her for a sum of £1 million (HK$12.1 million).

According to the writ, filed by solicitors Wilkinson & Grist on behalf of the plaintiffs Edward Brian Nicol and Charlene Marianne Nicol, Annells allegedly failed to transfer funds from their trust to investment managers in Britain.

The statement of claims also says that Annells sent forms and a letter to the plaintiff's solicitor that purported to show she had transferred the funds via HSBC. However, when these were sent to the bank for verification, HSBC replied: "We do not have any record of having issued any of the [said] documents."

Annells is a Hong Kong-based tax consultant and the founder and managing director of AzureTax. In July she was found to have committed six instances of dishonesty by the disciplinary tribunal of Britain's Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and was expelled.

The tribunal said that she had dishonestly used trust funds of HK$5.2 million to make payments that were not in the beneficiaries' interests, she had failed to separate and maintain bank accounts belonging to AzureTax Group and client funds, and she sought to deceive a solicitor acting for one of the trusts managed by one of her companies by "relying on a bank statement which she knew or ought have known was forged". Annells denies she has been dishonest.

The claim says the plaintiffs set up a trust scheme with Annells in March this year and paid in £500,000 each. Under the terms of the scheme the funds in the trust would be managed by Bloomsbury, a branch of British company Raymond James Investment Services UK which opened a nominee account with Pershing Securities in April so that the trust funds could be transferred to this account and invested.

However, in early August Edward Nicol complained to Annells over the delay in transferring the funds to the nominee account. Annells emailed Bloomsbury on August 6 to say that the funds would be transferred the following day, the claim alleges. The next day she emailed Nicol telling him that telegraphic transfer forms had been submitted to HSBC. However, the claim says that as of Friday last week no funds had been transferred.

On August 22, the claim says, her then-solicitor sent to the plaintiff's solicitor the telegraphic transfer forms that purported to show that the funds had already been sent.

On August 28 she sent a letter purportedly from an HSBC officer saying that the bank knew the funds were in the British banking system. When asked if the documents were genuine, the bank replied that it had no record of these transfers.

The police arrested Annells in December 2011 in connection with a complaint by another client. Its investigation has now entered its 21st month but no charges have been laid.

The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) is meeting later this month to see if her conduct warrants a formal disciplinary investigation.

Since the CIOT findings Annells has carried an explanatory statement on her website in which she says that she has changed the way her company conducts business. She updated this statement in mid-August to say, incorrectly, that contrary to press reports she was not being investigated by the HKICPA or the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners. She has since resigned from STEP, which relieves her of further investigation.

Meanwhile, Annells has updated her site and concedes she is "now providing information regarding the CIOT review" to the HKICPA. She adds: "We reiterate that we have broken no laws or professional conduct codes in Hong Kong."


Beckham plays ball with CLSA

CLSA is celebrating the 20th year of its Investors' Forum, which kicks off on September 23.

One of the features of the event, aside from the access investors get to the executives of the companies in which they invest, is the celebrity keynote speaker.

In recent years these have included Mike Tyson, George Clooney, and Francis Ford Coppola. CLSA has stayed with the sporting theme and this year's celeb speaker is the recently retired English footballer David Beckham.

Fortunately, it's the medium rather than the message which counts on these occasions.