The judge says there were mitigating circumstances for Ronald Tse, who published a false statement The former financial chief of the Allied Group, who tried to dodge criminal liability for defrauding the company over a decade ago, walked away from court yesterday with a suspended sentence. Earlier this week, Ronald Tse Chu-fai admitted one count of publishing a false statement or account under the Theft Ordinance over events that occurred in 1991. A further five charges, which Tse had previously denied, were put on file and will not be pursued. The charge admitted by Tse, former financial director and company secretary of the Allied Group, related to his publishing in the group's 1991 annual report that the issued, fully paid share capital was $419.5 million, when $15.43 million of it was not fully paid up at the time. Outside court, Tse's lawyer, Gary Plowman, said his client was 'relieved it is over'. This week's developments bring closure for a key player involved in one of Hong Kong's longest-running legal sagas. Tse's co-accused, Lee Ming-tee, has been at the centre of a protracted court battle since two separate Court of First Instance judges ordered a permanent stay of proceedings - only to have their decisions overturned by the Court of Final Appeal. Lee, ex-chairman of the Allied Group, has pleaded not guilty to two charges of conspiracy to defraud and four charges of publishing a false statement of account in relation to events between 1990 and 1992. Yesterday, Mr Justice Michael Burrell warned Tse that his 16-month sentence had only been suspended for two years because of exceptional mitigating circumstances. He said the courts would not tolerate similar offences. 'In a financial centre such as Hong Kong, false statements of this magnitude in the accounts of a company are serious matter,' he said. 'They affect the public confidence in the market and the confidence of Hong Kong's reputation.' Mr Justice Burrell said the integrity of officials in public companies should be beyond reproach. 'Those who put their name to [false documents] will lose their liberty,' he warned. The judge said the mitigating circumstances included the fact that Tse never made any financial gain from his actions, he had only been working as the financial director for three months before the scheme was carried out and that the concealment did not result in any actual losses. Mr Justice Burrell also accepted the submission of Mr Plowman, who told the court that Tse had already spent one year in jail while waiting for extradition from Australia. Mr Justice Burrell also noted the case's extraordinary legal history. 'On three occasions, he [Tse] had grounds to believe that the case was over, only to have that position reversed by the higher court,' he said. Tse's health was also an issue Mr Justice Burrell took into account after several medical reports showed the businessman had had five eye operations and was also suffering from occasional depression, angina and osteoporosis. Mr Justice Burrell ordered Tse to be suspended from being a company director for five years.