Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Crown makes closing arguments in Belgrave lawyer case

Former Central Hawkes Bay mayor and Waipukurau lawyer, Hugh Edward Staples Hamilton, is on trial in the High Court at Auckland.

Hugh Hamilton is accused of helping a property developer arrange the purchase of Belgrave Finance so that the man's identity would be hidden. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Hugh Hamilton is accused of helping a property developer arrange the purchase of Belgrave Finance so that the man's identity would be hidden. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A now-disbarred lawyer accused of helping a property developer borrow millions of dollars from a finance company in "forbidden related-party loans" cannot argue he was acting on instructions or was an innocent agent, says the Crown in its closing submissions to the High Court.

Former Central Hawkes Bay mayor and Waipukurau lawyer, Hugh Edward Staples Hamilton, is on trial in the High Court at Auckland for allegedly helping former property developer Raymond Schofield arrange the purchase of Belgrave Finance so that Schofield's identity and control of the company was hidden.

The purpose of this was to allegedly allow Schofield, who bought Belgrave in 2005 for $3 million, to borrow from the firm either directly or through other companies he controlled.

A former partner of DAC Legal who advised Belgrave until its 2008 receivership, Hamilton has pleaded not guilty to 17 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship as well as charges of false statement by a promoter, and Companies Act charges of making a false statement to a trustee.

Although Hamilton's trial was expected to take up to eight weeks, it is running ahead of schedule and the Crown finished making its closing arguments today.

Crown lawyer Nick Williams told Justice John Faire this morning "there was no room for Mr Hamilton to argue he was merely acting on instructions or he was an innocent agent."

In its written closing submissions to the judge, the Crown said Hamilton had "full knowledge of what he was doing and why he was doing it".

Williams said this morning that Hamilton was involved in a scheme with Schofield and Belgrave directors Stephen Smith and Shane Buckley that had "subterfuge and deceit" at its heart.

"The overwhelming thrust of the evidence is that Mr Hamilton purposefully and deliberately helped Mr Schofield and Mr Buckley and Mr Smith make forbidden related party loans in breach of the [Belgrave's] trust deed," he said.

The defence is due to give its closing address to the judge tomorrow.

Schofield was charged alongside Belgrave directors Shane Buckley and Stephen Smith in September 2011, with the SFO alleging the defendants misrepresented how investors' money would be used. The trio were also charged by the authority for allegedly making untrue statements in offer documents.

It was alleged that, in substance, Schofield acted as a Belgrave director.

Buckley and Smith have pleaded guilty to charges they faced and been jailed, while Schofield was granted a stay on the proceedings he faced because he was suffering from terminal cancer.

- NZ Herald

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