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Court dismisses appeal against tax evasion sentence

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The High Court today (August 23) dismissed an appeal by a former radio talk-show host against a three-month jail sentence in respect of her tax evasion convictions.

The Appellant, the shareholder and director of her service company, was convicted on her guilty pleas on April 19, 2001 at the Western Magistracy, of four counts of signing fraudulent Profits Tax Returns for the years of assessment 1994/95 to 1997/98, contrary to section 82(1)(d) of the Inland Revenue Ordinance. She was sentenced to three months' imprisonment and a fine of $200,000.

The investigation by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) revealed that the Appellant had falsely claimed deductions in respect of salaries, entertainment and staff benefits expenses, and omitted to include as income a lump-sum contractual bonus received from a radio station in the four Profits Tax Returns of the company. As a result, profits were understated by $1,556,886, involving tax undercharged by $210,122.

The Hon Mr Justice Lugar-Mawson, of the Court of First Instance of the High Court, after hearing the submission made by the counsel for the Appellant, said that immediate imprisonment was to be expected in tax evasion offence, quoting the sentencing guidelines laid down by the Court of Appeal in a former tax evasion case of Mr. Ma Lai Wu. He added that the trial Magistrate, in sentencing, had already carefully considered all the background and mitigation factors submitted by the defence counsel, and the sentences were not inappropriate and too harsh. He thus dismissed the appeal.

An IRD spokesman reminds the public that tax evasion is a criminal offence. Upon conviction, the maximum sentence is three years' imprisonment and a fine of $50,000 on each charge, plus a further fine equivalent to three times of the amount of tax undercharged.

End/Thursday, August 23, 2001

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