A Christchurch chartered accountant has given “an absolute undertaking” that he will repay $726,462 he stole from a family trust, if a mining investment makes money.
John Lawrence Hibbard, 60, has begun a three-year nine-month jail term after admitting five charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.
At his sentencing in Christchurch District Court, Judge David McKegg told him: “You have a long way back, sir. I have no doubt you will give it your best. I accept your undertaking that should matters turn out for the better, you will make every effort to refund the monies you have taken.”
The judge suppressed the name of the family trust.
Hibbard has lost his reputation and his business. He has been adjudicated bankrupt and is in the process of being struck off as a chartered accountant.
Defence counsel Jonathan Eaton said he was a well respected, experienced, and popular man. He was a loving husband and father.
Hibbard had an exciting business opportunity, to invest in a mining company in North America. He had shifted to larger premises, coinciding with a downturn in the markets.
He had then taken the money from the family trust over a four-and-a-half year period, in small sums, and “always with the genuine and honest belief that the monies would be paid in full when the overseas venture came to fruition”.
Eaton said the victims were not facing the devastation that might have arisen from these losses. He repeated Hibbard’s “absolute undertaking” that the funds would be repaid if the investment money came available.
Hibbard had been disgraced within his own profession and was ashamed and humiliated. His reputation was in tatters.
The offending had not been motivated by greed or a lavish life-style, but simply reflected the operating expenditure of the business coinciding with the shift to bigger premises.
Crown prosecutor Anselm Williams said: “The aggravating feature is the breach of trust by a professional man who was being paid very well for his services.”
Judge McKegg said: “The victims have taken a very dignified stance.”
There was no prospect of recovery of the money, with Hibbard being adjudicated bankrupt and struck off as a chartered accountant.
Hibbard had many years of unblemished service and work, and was well regarded in the community. “I have a number of letters in support of you from people you have dealt with. In four years that reputation was obliterated.”
Once he realised that the offending had been found out, Hibbard had been immediately co-operative and had shown a high level of remorse.
“There is realism about this sentencing,” the judge told Hibbard. “You accept that a term of imprisonment will follow because of the high level of responsibility that you assume when you taken a professional’s role such you did, and the breach of trust is a sad and serious event.”