Lawyer and former mayor jailed for fraud

The former lawyer and Central Hawke’s Bay mayor who was found guilty of fraud in relation to the collapse of Belgrave Finance Limited has been sentenced to jail today at the Auckland High Court

Former lawyer and Central Hawke’s Bay mayor Hugh Hamilton has been sentenced at the Auckland High Court today to four years and nine months’ imprisonment.

In May he had been found guilty of fraud in relation to the collapse of Belgrave Finance Limited (Belgrave), of 14 charges brought in a joint prosecution by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Financial Markets Authority (FMA).
The charges related to loans, with a value of more than $12 million, made by Belgrave to various related entities between June 2005 and March 2008.
Hamilton, a former barrister and solicitor, was a legal adviser to the other people involved – Raymond Schofield, Stephen Smith and Shane Buckley – who were charged in relation to the making of substantive fraudulent representations and use of Belgrave investors’ funds.
Hamilton was found guilty as a party to the offending, namely, theft by a person in a special relationship. He aided Schofield, Smith and Buckley in perpetrating the related party transactions in breach of Belgrave’s Debenture Trust Deed.
He also transacted a portion of the loan funds through his firm’s trust account on behalf of Schofield.
SFO Director, Julie Read said: “At the time Belgrave was placed into liquidation, it was the 20th finance company to collapse in two years. The SFO have been acutely aware that the finance company collapses hindered public confidence in the integrity of our financial markets. The sentencing of Mr Hamilton concludes another prosecution and is one step closer to addressing and rebuilding that confidence.”
FMA Director of Enforcement and Investigations, Belinda Moffat, added, “The sentence reflects the seriousness of the offending in the Belgrave case. Professional advisers play a critical role in companies that raise money from the public, and they have a responsibility to ensure they do not enable wrongdoing. We hope this decision and the conclusion of the case will help to promote high standards of conduct in New Zealand’s financial markets.”

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