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Accountant pleads guilty to million-dollar fraud

13 March 2019


A former chartered accountant who stole approximately $1.01 million from his clients has pleaded guilty to fraud.

Christopher George Wright (62) misappropriated refunds from his clients on whose behalf he filed tax returns and obtained refunds.

The tax refunds intended for Mr Wright’s clients were deposited in his accounting practice’s trust account, which was under his control. The Auckland man spent the refunds on gambling, friends and family, school fees and loan repayments. He defrauded about 245 clients over a six-year period from January 2010 to April 2016.

Mr Wright pleaded guilty yesterday at the Auckland District Court to one representative charge of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ brought by the SFO.

The Director of the Serious Fraud Office Julie Read said, “Mr Wright deceived his clients over a number of years. His offending was a breach of trust that resulted in significant monetary losses. The prosecution of such matters is an important aspect of protecting New Zealand’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business.”

The defendant has been remanded on bail to reappear for sentencing at the Auckland District Court on 6 May.

Note to editors

Background to investigation

Following a complaint made to New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA), Christopher Wright’s membership of the institute was suspended on 26 April 2016.

The Professional Conduct Committee subsequently filed charges alleging ‘professional misconduct’ and ‘negligence or incompetence’ that where heard by NZICA’s disciplinary tribunal in December 2016. Mr Wright pleaded ‘guilty by correspondence’ to those charges brought before the disciplinary tribunal.

The disciplinary tribunal removed Mr Wright’s name from the register of NZICA members and imposed costs of $56,853.

Crimes Act offences

220 Theft by person in special relationship

(1) This section applies to any person who has received or is in possession of, or has control over, any property on terms or in circumstances that the person knows require the person—

(a) to account to any other person for the property, or for any proceeds arising from the property; or

(b) to deal with the property, or any proceeds arising from the property, in accordance with the requirements of any other person.

(2) Every one to whom subsection (1) applies commits theft who intentionally fails to account to the other person as so required or intentionally deals with the property, or any proceeds of the property, otherwise than in accordance with those requirements.

(3) This section applies whether or not the person was required to deliver over the identical property received or in the person’s possession or control.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1), it is a question of law whether the circumstances required any person to account or to act in accordance with any requirements.

ends

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