Expat tax adviser faces a further 27 charges of theft and fraud

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 February, 2014, 3:35am

Deborah Annells, a high-profile tax adviser to expatriates, has been charged with 26 more counts of theft and one of fraud in addition to the 29 charges she already faced. The sum involved now exceeds HK$36 million.

Annells, who appeared in Eastern Court yesterday, now faces 51 counts of theft, four counts of fraud, and one count of possessing a false instrument.

The 55-year-old chief executive and founder of AzureTax was arrested in December 2011 in connection with a client's complaint but only charged in November last year.

She is accused of having taken money from client funds held by or on behalf of the Azure group or its associated companies.

The fresh charges involve offences that allegedly occurred between March and April last year. In one, she is accused of defrauding a client by telling him that funds of about £1 million (HK$12.9 million) had been transferred to an investment firm in Britain. The victim in that case, Edward Nicol, launched a lawsuit against Annells at the High Court last September.

The 29 initial charges involved alleged offences that occurred between June 2009 and August 2011.

The three fraud charges related to allegations that she falsely indicated funds were transferred from a trust held by Azure Worldwide to an Azure Worldwide account in Switzerland; that inaccurate financial statements were accurate; and that signatures were genuine when they were not.

No plea was taken at yesterday's hearing and Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai adjourned the case to April 4.

She extended Annells' bail terms of HK$250,000 and warned her not to contact the prosecution's proposed witnesses.

An announcement on the AzureTax website says negotiations are under way to sell the company to Zetland Fiduciary Group, a Hong Kong-based consultancy.

Annells is a past president of the Rotary Club of Hong Kong, and has sat on the general committee of the British Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of its finance committee.