4 Jul 2014

Former mayor jailed on theft charges

6:06 pm on 4 July 2014

A former lawyer and Central Hawke's Bay mayor who helped executives of a failed finance company steal $12.5 million has been sentenced to four years and nine months in jail.

Hugh Hamilton was found guilty in May of 14 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship for his role in the collapse of Belgrave Finance in 2008.

The collapse of the finance company left more than 1200 investors $22 million out of pocket.

Crown lawyer Nick Williams argued for a sentence of at least six-and-a-half years, with no discount for good character because of the nature of the offending.

Hamilton's lawyer David Young argued for a starting sentence of three years, with a discount for his client's extensive community service, which should be carried out as home detention.

In the High Court at Auckland on Friday, Justice Faire gave a sentence of five years, with a 5 percent discount for good character.

Speaking before the sentence was given, Hamilton told the court he was sorry sorry that many investors had lost their life savings, and he wished he could have turned the clock back and stopped what had happened at Belgrave Finance.

He said he no longer had standing within his profession or the community, had no assets apart from a vehicle and some furniture, and was on a benefit so had no means to pay reparation.

Mr Williams later said he hoped the sentencing would help to restore confidence in the financial markets.

"That's certainly what the Financial Markets Authority and the SFO (Serious Fraud Office) are trying to achieve in taking these sorts of cases and showing that third-party advisers, like lawyers or accountants, must adhere to proper, ethical standards," he said.

"Mr Hamilton didn't, and he's paid the price."

Hamilton's actions had a huge detrimental effect on a large number of small time investors, the market and the legal profession, Mr Williams said.