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SFO charges disgraced accountant

The Serious Fraud Office won’t say why it took so long to bring a case against an accountant who admitted taking client money and was thrown out of the industry body in 2016.

Christopher George Wright was suspended by the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants in May 2016 and kicked out in December that year, after pleading guilty to the tribunal to stealing funds from clients over an eight-year period.

Now the SFO has brought charges against Wright, alleging the 62-year-old filed tax returns on behalf of his clients and misappropriated refunds of about $1.01 million. The SFO alleges Wright defrauded 245 clients over a six-year period from January 2010 to April 2016.

Spokesman Henry Acland says the SFO won’t comment on the case until after any sentencing. But the office is asking any of Wright’s clients who think they might have been defrauded to make contact.

In December 2016, the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ disciplinary tribunal said Wright acknowledged he had been taking client monies for approximately eight years.

"The tribunal finds that the member's conduct - the misappropriation of at least $280,000 over approximately 18 months and his admission that he had been taking client monies over approximately eight years - constitutes misconduct in a professional capacity," the decision said.

This week, Wright appeared in the Auckland District Court charged by the SFO with "theft by a person in a special relationship". He didn’t enter a plea and was remanded on bail until October 4.

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