A former Auckland chartered accountant who gambled his clients' tax refunds away and stole more than $1 million has been jailed for nearly four years.

Christopher George Wright, 64, stole some $1.01 million from 245 clients over a six-year period from January 2010 through to April 2016.

He was sentenced this morning in the Auckland District Court by Judge Russell Collins to three years and nine months' imprisonment.

Wright had pleaded guilty last March to one representative charge of theft by person in special relationship brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

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In a statement, the SFO said the tax refunds intended for Wright's clients were deposited in his accounting practice's trust account.

He then spent the refunds on gambling, friends and family, school fees and loan repayments.

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SFO director Julie Read said Wright's prison sentence reflects the seriousness of offending which, she added, was premeditated, repetitive and long-running.

"Mr Wright breached his professional duties and deceived his clients for personal gain of more than $1 million. His offending was a significant breach of trust and he will now suffer the consequences of his actions.

"The prosecution of such matters is an important aspect of protecting New Zealand's reputation as a safe place to invest and do business."

Christopher Wright used the tax refunds for gambling, friends and family, school fees and loan repayments. Photo / Dean Purcell
Christopher Wright used the tax refunds for gambling, friends and family, school fees and loan repayments. Photo / Dean Purcell

Wright's sentencing had earlier been delayed several times, including while a mental health report was undertaken.

The court earlier heard Wright had a brain tumour removed in the past, suffered a stroke, three heart attacks and had open heart surgery.

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His lawyer, Shane Tait, claimed this changed his client's personality and had affected his ability to show remorse following his offending during the interviewing process.

But Tait said Wright was remorseful.

Following a complaint made to the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA), Wright's membership of the institute was suspended in April 2016.

The Professional Conduct Committee subsequently filed charges alleging professional misconduct and negligence or incompetence that where heard by NZICA's disciplinary tribunal in December 2016.

Wright pleaded guilty by correspondence to those charges and the disciplinary tribunal removed his name from the register of NZICA members and imposed costs of $56,853.

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