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Accountant guilty of $320,000 fraud

An accountant who stole $320,000 from two of his clients, allegedly for the benefit of his firm and a tobacco company of which he was a director, has been found guilty of fraud charges.

Gary Malcolm Hobbs, 45, was found guilty by a Hamilton District Court jury of 14 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship laid by the Serious Fraud Office.

It came two years after he was struck off as a chartered accountant after admitting conduct unbecoming an accountant.

Hobbs, 45, was a director of Te Awamutu accountancy firm Hobbs Rose when he stole funds from the bank accounts of two clients.

A Serious Fraud Office investigation said he used the money to benefit his own firm, and South American Tobacco Group NZ Ltd, of which he was also a director.

"As a trusted advisor, Mr Hobbs let his clients down," SFO acting chief executive Simon McArley said.

"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."

Hobbs will be sentenced on February 15.

Hobbs and his business partner Phillip Rose were struck off in 2010 and ordered to pay $9718 costs after their firm was unable to pay major creditors within a reasonable time, or to comply with a 2008 disciplinary tribunal ruling as to payment of fines and costs.

The tribunal also found their conduct had caused detriment to their clients and brought the Institute of Chartered Accountants into disrepute.