Bean counters discipline thief


A Queenstown accountant who stole more than $12,000 from two bowling organisations has been suspended by his professional body.

Eric Lee was suspended on an interim basis by the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants at a disciplinary tribunal last month.

The institute announced the decision yesterday.

The 74-year-old was a part-time consultant accountant for resort firm Crowe Horwath until his arrest in December.

Lee was convicted and sentenced to four months’ home detention and ordered to pay reparation when he appeared in the Queenstown District Court a week ago.

The institute’s decision, which has been published on its website, stated Lee had been suspended because of the seriousness of his offending.

“Misappropriating funds when in a position of trust is an issue which strikes at the heart of the professional requirement and public expectation that chartered accountants have integrity and honesty.”

There was potential risk to Lee’s existing and future clients, as well as to the public.

The suspension allowed members of the public to make informed decisions about whether or not to engage Lee’s services while criminal proceedings were under way, the decision states.

Institute spokesman Mike Booker told the Otago Daily Times that now the matter was over in the courts, it was likely Lee’s case would go back to the tribunal for more consideration.

“For an organisation such as ours, a case involving dishonesty is very serious, and in most instances dishonesty cases go before the tribunal.”

The most serious penalty the institute can impose is to strike a member off its register.

In January, Crowe Horwath’s Central Otago supremo Duncan Fea told Mountain Scene: “Once charges were laid we’ve had no ongoing involvement with Eric.”

Covert cameras caught Lee taking a total of $465 in cash from the Queenstown Bowls Club’s till last year. He also misappropriated $12,000 from the Central Otago Bowls Incorporation while acting as its treasurer and tournament secretary.

He told police he took the money to fund a gambling habit.

Otago Daily Times