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Hong Kong accountancy watchdog launches probe into Deborah Annells

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 2013, 6:11am

Hong Kong's accountancy watchdog has launched an investigation after a complaint was lodged against the local accountant expelled from Britain's Chartered Institution of Taxation following a finding she had behaved dishonestly in relation to a Hong Kong client.

Deborah Annells denies any wilful wrongdoing but concedes "mistakes were made". She was arrested and released on bail by Hong Kong police in 2011.

"Police arrested a 53 year-old-woman in connection with a theft case reported in October 2011. The arrested person is released on bail and is required to report back to police in August 2013. Active investigations by Commercial Crime Bureau are under way," a police spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for the industry's professional body, the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said a complaint had been made and that it was collecting evidence.

No finding had been made on the matter.

In an e-mailed reply to questions from the Post, Annells denied allegations of deliberate misconduct and said it was "business as usual" for her practice.

"I strongly deny any and all allegations of dishonesty," she said. "I do not dispute that mistakes were made, but these have now been rectified and we're focused on moving on. We are committed to our clients and team to continue to build a thriving business."

Annells joined Ernst & Young in Hong Kong in 1994. She later established her own practice, AzureTax Group, which now has 20 employees and "thousands" of tax clients. She said she had not breached any ethical rules or laws in Hong Kong.

"The UK Tribunal is a UK standards tribunal only and was not criticising our tax practice, but our Hong Kong company secretarial and trust business," she said.

"AzureTax Group divested its company secretarial business and a substantial part of our trustee business last year, in order to focus on our core competence and largest practice, which has always been tax."

The Chartered Institute of Taxation of Britain last week cancelled Annells' membership for what it said were six breaches of the fundamental principle of integrity. She was ordered to pay costs of £62,375 (HK$744,295).


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1) She had dishonestly used trust funds, entrusted to the care of AzureTrustees, to make payments of HK $ 5,200,000 that were not for the benefit of any of the beneficiaries of the trust, although no trust moneys were ultimately lost;
2) She had failed to separate and maintain bank accounts belonging to the AzureTax Group and its associated companies, all of which she controlled, from client funds held by or on behalf of the Group or its associated companies;
3) 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 to have known was forged;
4) She dishonestly withdrew US $ 10,000 from a Singapore company which was part of AzureTax Group and put it into an account operated by one of the Azure Hong Kong companies;
5) and 6) She dishonestly submitted two applications to add an Azure service company as a bank signatory to a client company’s bank account without the knowledge of their owners.
The Tribunal recorded that Ms Annells had continually denied all the charges, except charge 2, which was broadly admitted and, whilst she had expressed regret about the whole matter and in particular any distress caused to the one client who complained, she had never acknowledged that she had been guilty of any kind of wrongdoing nor given any indication that she had any insight into the seriousness of the charges found against her.
'Deceive/dishonestly' hmmm.... Trust ?


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