'Mr Asia' lawyer Eb Leary farewelled

Hells Angels and high-flyers from business and law were at a packed farewell for "Mr Asia" lawyer Eb Leary in Auckland today.

The gregarious lawyer died on Sunday after a battle with cancer.

Hundreds of well-wishers crammed into St Mary's-in-Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Parnell to celebrate Mr Leary's colourful 71 years, which included winning $830,000 on the lottery, being disbarred because of his links to the Mr Asia drug syndicate and then a 20-year wait to be reinstated.

Mr Leary's sister, Caroline Main, and his son, James Leary, set the tone with articulate and heartfelt tributes from the lectern. With a generous sprinkling of anecdotes, the pair had the congregation regularly laughing.

Mrs Main said said no one described her brother better than the late Sir Peter Williams. The Queen's Counsel had said that "whenever Eb walked into the room, he brought a certain amount of swank".

"Eb was not a Bible-banging person, but he had very deep and profound belief. Goodbye, Eb, thank you for all the joy you have given us," Mrs Main said.

James Leary spoke of how he and his father had grown much closer in recent months and thanked the nearly 400 people in attendance, pointing to the range of lives his father related to.

"I know it would have meant such a tremendous amount to my father to see such a tremendous mix of New Zealanders here to support the end of his journey," Mr Leary said.

"Whatever Dad did, he did it with a bit of charisma. He taught me to always treat people on their merits."

Mr Leary also revealed how the family had insisted the Hells Angels come in gang regalia.

"With the gentlemen here today from the Hells Angels, they wanted to dress down. But it was a request from the family that they come as they are. That's how Eb knew them and they were very loyal friends of his for a long time."

Mr Leary closed with the declaration, "I love you, Dad", and rested his hand on his father's coffin before returning to his seat.

Justice Charles Cato, the New Zealander who was sworn in as a Supreme Court judge in Tonga four years ago, also addressed the gathering with a reading.

Other friends and family present included high-profile lawyer Gary Gotlieb and businesswomen and philanthropist Dame Rosanne Meo.

Outside the service, Mr Leary's wife, Claudine, praised the "lovely words" of those who had spoken and the support of all who attended.

Mr Leary was disbarred in 1987 and was out of the legal profession for 20 years -- a term his son said was "longer than a life sentence for murder in New Zealand".

After being struck off, Mr Leary and a business partner set up a processing and exporting plant in Auckland, selling and exporting salmon.

At the time, his first wife, Geraldine, won $830,000 in Lotto, and the couple bought Kingfish Lodge in the Far North, which they developed into an exclusive game-fishing resort.

They lived in the Whangaroa Harbour area for nearly 10 years. Geraldine died of cancer in 2006.

In 2007, Mr Leary was granted High Court permission to practise law again. About 81 people were prepared to provide testimonials in support of Mr Leary's readmission.

- NZ Herald

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