The last thing anyone expected Gabriel Ricardo Dias Azedo to do was a runner. His partners at accountants Grant Thornton didn't expect it, and even those who knew him through horse racing have been taken aback by the 61-year-old's disappearance. Since his school days at La Salle College more than four decades ago, the proud Hongkonger of Portuguese descent has been known as a decent man. But run he has, allegedly with more than HK$91 million fleeced from some of those closest to him. No one knows exactly where he has gone, but Brazil is the rumour in the city's Portuguese community. A woman he met in Macau is said to be involved. Police are said to have followed a trail last month that ended in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. Toy trader Angela Rita Gardner, related to Azedo by marriage, alleges he defrauded her of HK$69.49 million between December 1999 and June 29 this year. Archie da Silva and his wife, Betty, best known as the owners of champion racehorse Silent Witness, filed a claim in October with the High Court against Azedo and Grant Thornton seeking the return of US$2.3 million from a trust fund set up for their daughter. Last week, China Construction Bank (Asia) filed a High Court writ seeking HK$3.48 million from him. However, the money trail may not stop there, with a professional gambler revealing the accountant had been setting up and managing offshore bank accounts for some of the city's big punters for over a decade. 'Looking at the people involved and the money they have been winning, the figures could amount to anything,' one professional gambler said. 'And we'll never know the exact amounts because no one will ever tell how much they have lost - that's just the nature of the game.' What Azedo has left behind - a position at the top of society - also suggests to many that he has no intention of returning. 'He is a very proud guy. To have done this to people who knew him, to people who loved him, I know he does not intend to come back,' a close associate of Azedo's said. 'Some of us are wondering if he's met with foul play. It's just so hard to explain.' Azedo was the president of Club Lusitano, one of the oldest and most respected private clubs in Hong Kong, with a big membership of Portuguese and Macanese. Fluent in three languages, including Cantonese, Azedo was for many years a director of the Hong Kong Country Club, which a spokesman said he had served 'with distinction'. He was its chairman from 2004 to 2005. Azedo was also a director of charitable trust fund Associacao Portuguesa de Soccorros Mutos (Portuguese Association for Mutual Aid). He lived alone in a flat in Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, having separated from his wife, who moved to London with the couple's two now-grown children in the mid-1990s. His mother, Lucia, who is in her 90s, still lives in Hong Kong, and other relatives also live in the city and in Macau. The Azedo name is one of considerable renown. The late family patriarch, Cassiano Ricardo Dias Azedo, was a champion of the Portuguese community. Azedo was passionate about his family's history in the city, those who know him say. Despite having retired as a managing partner of Grant Thornton on his 60th birthday last year, he was still working full time on Grant Thornton International's global leadership board and was playing an instrumental role in the firm's push into the mainland. Colleagues from the firm said that while he was friendly and professional, he did not socialise with them. One former partner of the firm saw Azedo in September in Shanghai and said he appeared 'perfectly normal'. But no one has been able to reach him since October. Da Silva did not want to comment on his monetary claim as it was before the court, but said he was still mystified about what led Azedo to vanish. 'This is someone I first sat next to at school at seven years old. We have grown up together. We owned racehorses together,' he said. Da Silva said Azedo gambled on horses but he had no knowledge as to the scale of his betting. They had in the past owned several horses in New Zealand and Australia, including Sha Tin Heights, the runner-up in the 1992 New Zealand Derby. Azedo had also owned four horses in Hong Kong, two with his wife, including the David Hall-trained Jubiloso, which retired last year. Henrique Souza, who is the general manager of Club Lusitano and also a La Salle College old boy, is another still in shock at the departure of his childhood friend and the club's president. A sign on the noticeboard of the club's Ice House Street premises says Gabriel Ricardo Dias Azedo, member A014, owes HK$500 in dues for November; another says the club has no information about his disappearance. Beyond the members' clubs and the world of accountancy, there was another life which attracted Azedo - the colourful characters from the adrenaline-fuelled worlds of horse racing and professional betting. It is understood Azedo was once heavily involved with the computerised-gambling team set up by Hong Kong-based Australian playboy Alan Woods, who died last year, aged 62, of a pulmonary embolism, having amassed a fortune estimated at US$600 million. Azedo was also a known associate of financer Michael Bastion, whose own death remains shrouded in mystery. Bastion plunged to his death from the balcony of his sixth-floor Happy Valley flat in 2000 after years of heavy cocaine use and financial scams that cost figures in the world of international racing an estimated HK$200 million. An inquest into his death recorded an open verdict but rumours have swirled since that he was killed by triad debt collectors. 'In those days every one worked and played together, so everyone's money was mixed up in everyone's else,' another former Hong Kong-based professional gambler said. Azedo was also director of a small travel agency, Compass Travel, in Connaught Road, Sheung Wan. 'He always booked his travel with us, but not for this trip. We've got no idea where he is,' a member of staff said last week.