Archie da Silva offers prayer for fugitive who ran off with millions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 5:10am

The man who owns Hong Kong's most successful racehorse says he still prays for Gabriel Ricardo Dias-Azedo, even though the fugitive accountant allegedly ran off with millions of dollars he had placed in his trust.

Archie da Silva, owner of the now retired Silent Witness, who is owed a substantial sum by Azedo, also said that he would not relish facing in court the man whom he still regards as a friend.

Macau-born Azedo, 65, a former partner of accountancy firm Grant Thornton, is alleged to have absconded with US$2.3 million which da Silva and his wife, Betty da Silva Fei Po-ki, placed in his care to set up a trust fund.

Should Azedo ever return, he faces fraud and theft charges in connection with HK$91 million with which he is accused of fleeing Hong Kong in 2009.

Yesterday, on being told of Azedo's release from custody in Spain, Archie da Silva said: "That's terrible. I don't have any feelings because what can I do about it? If he comes back to Hong Kong it's not going to bring my money back. If he has any money left over, which I presume he does, he's going to have hidden it pretty carefully."

If he comes back to Hong Kong it's not going to bring my money back

The da Silvas have been through a series of legal wrangles in connection with the Azedo case and have managed to get some of the money back. "But I am still going to lose out," the racehorse owner said.

"I really don't know what to say. I am not trying to be vindictive but having been in prison in Spain for more than two years, that is already a lot of punishment. If he comes back I may not be happy also because I would have to face up to a friend on the witness stand, and that is not something I would really relish."

Court documents obtained by the Post earlier show Azedo - a well known gambler - allegedly funnelled millions into bank accounts and off-shore companies linked to his wife and himself.

He also used millions more to pay off credit card debts and money owed to, among others, Betty da Silva.

The paper trail provided by Hong Kong's police commercial crime bureau alleges that Azedo, who holds Portuguese and Australian passports, illegally appropriated more than HK$64 million from his cousin Angela Gardner as a loan for him to invest in Grant Thornton, of which he used to be the associate managing director.

From the total amount allegedly defrauded, Azedo is accused of withdrawing directly for himself almost HK$1.5 million. He is also accused of transferring more than HK$25 million to his own bank accounts and another HK$1 million to the bank account of his wife, Yvonne Maria.

"As far as I am concerned, I go to church and I still pray for him," da Silva said. "I feel that in life one must forgive and forget. I hope that if he is free he will make a good way with his life because he is an addictive gambler, very badly addicted, and as you know when he was arrested, it was in a casino in Salamanca.

"Who knows? Being released from prison might put him in a worse situation. If he goes back to gambling he could lose everything of what he has left. It may not be a blessing in disguise."