Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Bankrupt lawyer Bioletti keeps working

Jeremy Bioletti. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Jeremy Bioletti. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Auckland barrister Jeremy Bioletti says he has permission to run a business and can continue to practise law while bankrupt.

The defence lawyer who represented bankrupted barrister Barry Hart, was bankrupted himself in August owing about $550,000 to Inland Revenue in tax, interest and penalties.

Some of this debt dated back to 2006.

The 52-year-old barrister and solicitor had previously appeared in some high profile-cases, representing Hart as well as Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara during the trial of the so-called Urewera Four.

Bioletti has filed an appeal against the bankruptcy order, although no date has been set for this.

He also applied to the Court of Appeal to suspend his bankruptcy earlier this month but this was rejected.

However, Bioletti said the Official Assignee has let him run his own business during the bankruptcy and is in the process of getting it up and running.

Asked whether there was any issue with his ability to practise law, Bioletti said his practising certificate was current until June next year.

"Because I've got a practising certificate until June 2014, I think I can just proceed," Bioletti told the Herald.

"I don't know whether it becomes an issue when I re-apply again year but that's too far ahead I'm not going to worry about that," he said.

A spokesman for the Law Society, which issues lawyer's practising certificates, said the certificates were not automatically cancelled upon bankruptcy.

The spokesman could not discuss individual cases but said generally lawyers have to disclose to the society information about any matter that might affect their continuing eligibility for the certificates, which includes bankruptcy.

"Generally the process is that a practice approval committee would look at the reasons for bankruptcy and it would be taken into account when considering whether a practising certificate should be issued or renewed...if a matter arose from the committee's inquiries which was of immediate concern in relation to a practising lawyer then it would be referred to the lawyer's complaints service for consideration," the spokesman said.

When he was declared bankrupt, Bioletti told the Herald changes to the legal aid system had lead to his business dwindling and client numbers dropping off.

Bioletti said he made arrangements years ago with Inland Revenue to pay his tax bill. But when he entered into this deal people accused of complex fraud on legal aid could still pick the lawyer they wanted to represent them, he said.

Bioletti said fraud cases were one of his specialties and changes in 2010 meant people on legal aid accused of this sort of crime could no longer nominate the lawyer they wanted to represent them. Instead, lawyers for these cases were selected by legal services.

The lawyer said his business "just gradually drained out" following the changes because he was getting no new work.

- NZ Herald

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