A DIRECTOR and shareholder said to be ''inherently honest'' stole almost $8 million from his brother-in-law's company while he was left in charge, the District Court heard yesterday. Ip Chun-fong, 33, pleaded guilty to nine charges of theft and three charges of obtaining property by deception and was sentenced to a total of four years in prison. The offences were committed between September 1989 and July 1991 while Ip was running Cheung Shing Cotton Yarn Company Limited for his brother-in-law, Mr Lam Wang-yan, who was in Canada. Ip asked the accounting clerk of Cheung Shing to prepare nine cheques to cover transactions which the court heard were fictitious. Ip then dishonestly appropriated payments worth a total of $5,838,000. He also obtained by deception three cheques worth in total $2,028,000 from a regular customer by falsely representing that the cheques were required to settle payment for goods. Defending Counsel Mr Cheng Huan, QC, said Ip's probation report was ''probably one of the best reports you could possibly come across bearing in mind the seriousness of the offences''. His client was ''hard-working, honest and had won the trust of his boss''. Arguing that the case was a matter of false accounting rather than breach of trust, he said the company effectively belonged to Ip at the time of the offences. In mitigation, he said Ip had co-operated with the Commercial Crime Bureau. Deputy Judge Leung said he considered there had been a breach of trust in respect of the nine counts of theft, but not in the three counts of obtaining property by deception.