Lawyer on trial over alleged $1.5m misuse of client funds

by Samantha Woodhill17 Feb 2016
A two-week trial began this week for a Napier lawyer charged with 11 offences relating to the alleged misuse of $1.581m in client funds.

Gerald George McKay, formally partner of now closed firm McKay Hill, pleaded not guilty to five charges of theft, five of dishonestly using documents and one of a criminal breach of trust.  The offences are alleged to have occurred between June 2005 and June 2010.

Crown prosecutor Chris Lange is expected to call 20 witnesses.

The NZ Herald reported that Lange said it was alleged McKay illegally used funds from the firm’s trust accounts to fund the operations of the firm in his opening address on Monday. 

When he became aware that the Law Society would be looking into the firm’s accounts back in 2010, he allegedly told a member of his staff “words to the effect of, ‘We’re done for’,” Lange said.

It was alleged that he then attempted to conceal misappropriations by using backdated invoices.  Lange told the jury that they would hear from all of the clients involved.

McKay was struck off in 2014 after he acted for a number of clients involving strongly conflicting interests.  The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal found him guilty of profession misconduct.  He filed an appeal to the findings.