Former Auckland chartered accountant Christopher Wright granted parole after stealing $1 million from 245 clients

A former chartered accountant who misappropriated and gambled his clients’ tax refunds has been released from prison, banned from betting and prohibited from offering financial advice.

Christopher George Wright was sentenced in May 2020 to three years and nine months’ imprisonment for stealing $1.01 million from 245 clients over a six-year period from 2010.

Now the ex-Auckland white collar worker has been granted parole this month to a rural Whangārei property.

The tax refunds intended for Wright’s clients were deposited in his accounting practice’s trust account. He then spent the refunds on gambling, friends and family, school fees and loan repayments.

“Mr Wright managed to keep this undiscovered over an extended period by the expedient of robbing Peter to pay Paul so to speak, but following a Serious Fraud Office investigation, the reconciliation of his dealings revealed a deficit of some $1.1 million,” the Parole Board’s decision reads.

Wright pleaded guilty in 2019 to one representative charge of theft by person in special relationship brought by the SFO.

His lawyer, Shane Tait, told the Parole Board Wright has attended some programmes for gambling difficulties whilst on remand but was not eligible for any prison-based programmes.

Wright, who had no other criminal history, no longer presented as a risk to the community, the Parole Board said.

“He showed a realistic view of his risk factors in his interview with us. He is an undischarged bankrupt and has been struck off the accountancy register so is unable to resume any kind of professional practice. He considers himself, at the age of 65 now, to be retired and has no intention of resuming any sort of professional life.”

Wright had several special conditions imposed for his parole which prevented him, without the approval of a probation officer, from providing financial or business advice, handling the money of any person or entity, and using a credit card or applying for a loan.

He was also banned from any betting or gambling, prohibited from entering licensed gambling premises and ordered to attend and complete programmes from the Problem Gambling Foundation.

Following a complaint made to the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA), Wright’s membership in the institute was suspended in April 2016.

The Professional Conduct Committee subsequently filed charges alleging professional misconduct and negligence or incompetence that were heard by NZICA’s disciplinary tribunal in December 2016.

Wright pleaded guilty by correspondence to those charges and the disciplinary tribunal removed his name from the register of NZICA members and imposed costs of $56,853.

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