Accountant guilty of fraud

A Te Awamutu accountant has been found guilty of 14 fraud charges by a jury.

A jury of five women and seven men took about six hours to find former director of Hobbs Rose Limited, Gary Malcolm Hobbs, 45, guilty on 14 of 15 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.

The trial, in the Hamilton District Court heard there was no dispute as to whether Hobbs took the money, but the question was whether he was authorised to or not.

The charges were laid by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in November 2011 and totalled more than $370,000. However, he was found guilty of taking about $320,000.

Operau farmer Neil Sydney Scott hired Hobbs as his accountant in 1999.He alleged $140,000 was transferred from his family trust account to Hobbs' cigarette company South American Tobacco Group (SATG) Ltd. 

Mr Scott said he was unaware how much had been transferred until he met up with Mr Gilbert in January, 2009.

Hobbs repaid $40,00 to the Scotts before the company went into liquidation. 

A further $232,000 was transferred from a second client's account - the family trust of Richard Montague Gilbert, also a farmer.All offending is alleged to have occurred between June 2008 and July 2009.

The SFO investigation concluded that Mr Hobbs stole funds from two of his clients' bank accounts and used those funds in part in his own accountancy firm and for another company of which Mr Hobbs was also a Director, South American Tobacco Group NZ Limited.

Following the verdict, Acting Chief Executive for the SFO, Simon McArley, explained the importance the Office placed on this prosecution. 

"As a trusted advisor, Mr Hobbs let his clients down. This not only impacted directly on them but at a local level it undermines the good faith that people should be able to place in professional services such as chartered accountants."

Mr Hobbs was a qualified chartered accountant and a member of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA).

Following an NZICA investigation into Hobbs Rose and allegations of client funds being mismanaged, Mr Hobbs' NZICA membership was cancelled in 2010 and his name removed permanently from the NZICA register of members.