An accountant has been jailed for three years and seven months after stealing $320,000 from his clients' bank accounts.

Gary Hobbs, 45, who was a director at Hobbs Rose Limited, an accountancy firm in based in Te Awamutu, was sentenced at Hamilton District Court today.

In December last year, a jury found him guilty of 14 criminal charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office of theft by a person in a special relationship.

Hobbs stole from his clients' bank accounts, using those funds in part for the benefit of his own accountancy firm and for another company of which Mr Hobbs was also a director, South American Tobacco Group NZ Limited.


In September 2010, the Serious Fraud Office received a referral relating to complaints made by clients of Hobbs Rose Limited alleging that Hobbs had misappropriated funds they had invested with South American Tobacco Group NZ Limited.

Some clients also alleged that Hobbs had withdrawn funds from their bank accounts without their knowledge or authorisation.

Following an investigation by the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA) into Hobbs Rose and allegations of client funds being mismanaged, Hobbs' NZICA membership was cancelled in 2010 and his name removed permanently from the NZICA register of members.

Simon McArley, acting chief executive for the SFO, said while the case was at the lower dollar end of SFO prosecutions, it was important to hold to account people in trusted positions.

"This investigation and successful prosecution sends a message about maintaining professional and honest practices."