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Accountant Jailed For Defrauding Clients Of $1 Million

A former chartered accountant has been sentenced to three years and nine months’ imprisonment for stealing approximately $1.01 million from his clients.

Christopher George Wright (64) misappropriated refunds from his clients on whose behalf he filed tax returns and received refunds.

The tax refunds intended for Mr Wright’s clients were deposited in his accounting practice’s trust account. 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 was sentenced today at the Auckland District Court. He had pleaded guilty previously to one representative charge of ‘Theft by person in special relationship’ brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

The Director of the SFO, Julie Read, said, “The sentence reflects the seriousness of offending which was premeditated, repetitive and long running. Mr Wright breached his professional duties and deceived his clients for personal gain of more than $1 million. His offending was a significant breach of trust and he will now suffer the consequences of his actions. The prosecution of such matters is an important aspect of protecting New Zealand’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business.”

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.

 

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