Landlord sues Annells' AzureTax over unpaid office rent
Given our extensive coverage of the trials and tribulations of Deborah Annells and her tax consultancy business, AzureTax, we feel duty-bound to advise you of the latest developments. The landlord who owns the company premises in Lippo Centre is suing her for unpaid rent and vacant possession of the property.
Readers will recall that Annells, a well-known tax consultant to expatriates, is currently on HK$250,000 bail after appearing in Eastern Magistrates' Courts in November last year charged with 29 counts of theft and fraud amounting to HK$25.4 million. No plea was taken then and the case was remanded until next month while police investigated two further complaints against her involving HK$12.7 million. On her website, Annells has denied the charges and says she will vigorously defend herself.
The recent writ says AzureTax pays a monthly rent of HK$229,467 for office space in Lippo Centre, which excludes rates, management fees and air-conditioning costs. It alleges that the company failed to pay rent, management and air-conditioning charges and rates for the period between September 1 and November 30 last year.
The tenancy agreement stipulates that if any of these payments is not met within 15 days, a daily interest charge of 2 per cent per month of the unpaid amount is also due (mesne profits).
The writ states that the landlord received payments on December 2, 12 and 19 last year of HK$799,985, HK$99,828.40 and HK$55,500 respectively. After the last payment, it alleges, this meant Annells owed HK$47,063.04, together with "mesne profits" of HK$8,821.70 per day from December 20. So far, this totals just over HK$247,000.
In addition, the landlord is demanding AzureTax quit the property.
Interestingly, there is a note on AzureTax's website that says negotiations are under way to sell Azure Tax Group, the Seychelles-based parent company, and subsidiaries AzureTax Ltd and AzureTrustees to Zetland Fiduciary Group, a Hong Kong-based group. It says the deal is expected to be completed early this year.
Annells said through her public relations company that the deal was progressing well and, under the deal, the tax business would retain its AzureTax name and logo. She also claimed: "Our business is doing well, with turnover up 10 per cent in the past financial year. We expect this to continue as no other independent tax practice in Hong Kong can provide the range and quality of cross-border tax services we do for the reasonable fees we charge."
Readers may recall that a delegation from the Environment Bureau and possibly some legislative councillors are heading to Europe in early March to look at various waste treatment technologies in use in their quest to come up with a solution for Hong Kong's vexed municipal waste problem.
The aim of the trip, according to a briefing paper for the Legislative Council panel on environmental affairs, is to learn about the development and operation of thermal waste treatment facilities and keep abreast of the latest developments. The three-day visit will look at different technologies, including moving grate incineration, plasma gasification and pyrolysis.
There is increasing interest in plasma gasification in Hong Kong except, it seems, in the Environment Bureau, which regards the proposed Shek Kwu Chau incinerator as "an essential tool to help Hong Kong reduce its reliance on landfills". The project is currently in limbo, having been refused funding by Legco last year.
However, we gather that the bureau is having another go at securing funding for the proposal. The secretary for the environment, Wong Kam-sing, will officially submit a request for funding for the incinerator during the environmental affairs panel meeting on February 24. This is several weeks before the planned trip to Europe. So it is unlikely to result in any major policy changes.
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