A former Central Hawkes Bay mayor and lawyer who used client funds to pay off debts owed by his company has been struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors.
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal made the order against Hugh Hamilton who has not held a legal practising certificate or been practising as a lawyer since 2011.
The 61-year-old was charged with serious misconduct by the New Zealand Law Society.
Hamilton had admitted he had intentionally and dishonestly deceived a client about the recipient and intended use of $62,000 advanced by them, the NZ Law Society said in a statement.
Hamilton used funds to pay off debts owed by a company of which he was the sole director, it said.
At a hearing in Hastings yesterday, the tribunal struck Hamilton off the roll and ordered compensation of $20,000.
"Everyone who is, or who is eligible to be, a practising lawyer must meet certain standards of conduct. These standards are high," said Law Society President Chris Moore.
He said the number of lawyers who are struck off in New Zealand each year was low.
"However, the Law Society won't hesitate to investigate and take action if necessary if it believes there is an issue with the conduct of a lawyer or a former lawyer."
Hamilton is also facing multiple charges of theft by a person in a special relationship, making a false statement and making a false statement to a trustee brought by the Serious Fraud Office and Financial Markets Authority.
He was the legal adviser to failed Belgrave Finance, which went into receivership in 2008 owing about $20 million to about 1000 investors.
The Crown says Hamilton advised three people who acquired the company with the intention of using investors' funds for their own benefit.
His trial on those charges will be held in he High Court at Auckland next year.