A woman who trusted a friend of 20 years to look after her rental property while she worked overseas was fleeced of $32,000, while he also took out a loan under the name of her business.
Now that friend, Harold Hyde, has been struck off as an accountant, with a tribunal saying his conduct “offends against the most fundamental precepts and privileges” of working in the profession.
The Wellington woman, whose name is suppressed, was the sole director of a business she incorporated to administer her rental property.
She had moved overseas in the 2010s and Hyde had offered to manage the rental.
“I trusted him 100 per cent. I’d known him for 20 years, there was nothing not to trust,” the victim told a hearing of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Disciplinary Tribunal in October.
In the subsequent decision, released this week, it stated that as well as managing the property, Hyde would also collect and pay for purchases made by the woman on Trade Me while she was overseas.
She gave Hyde the online login details for the business bank account.
It was while overseas that the woman discovered her company had received a Covid-19 business loan from the Government worth $11,800. She told the tribunal the business didn’t need a loan, and she had never authorised it.
Now concerned and having not checked the business bank account for some time, she discovered multiple withdrawals from the account to Hyde’s dead mother’s bank account, and his own.
The withdrawals totalled more than $37,000, occurring between January 2021 and February 2022. Hyde’s mother had died in June 2021.
Many of the transactions were just $990 - below the $1000 limit where the woman was alerted to the withdrawal by her bank.
She complained to the Institute of Chartered Accountants, which launched an investigation.
Over email to the institute, Hyde denied applying for the Covid-19 business loan, and said the withdrawals related to Trade Me purchases and expenses for the rental property. The institute asked further questions, but Hyde never responded.
Hyde repeatedly ignored calls and emails from the institute’s investigator, and when the investigator turned up at his Wellington home, Hyde said the allegations were “a pack of lies” and asked the investigator to leave.
Ultimately the tribunal found Hyde did apply for the loan, because he had mentioned it in an email to the woman when she queried the funds.
When it came to the $37,000 worth of withdrawals, the woman accepted some of this would have stemmed from authorised purchases for items from Trade Me.
But the tribunal said, “on even a rudimentary analysis, the Trade Me purchases and other authorised expenditure did not equate to these withdrawals or anywhere near them.”
The tribunal found Hyde dishonestly transferred at least $32,000 of the woman’s money to his own, or his mother’s bank account.
It also found Hyde practised without holding a certificate of public practice, in breach of the institute’s rules, and that he failed to adequately engage in the tribunal process, also in breach of the rules.
He was removed from the register of accountants and ordered to pay $13,385 in costs. The tribunal also ordered the decision be released publicly, and an advertisement placed in a local newspaper.
Ethan Griffiths covers crime and justice stories nationwide for Open Justice. He joined NZME in 2020, previously working as a regional reporter in Whanganui and South Taranaki.