Struck-off Auckland lawyer fails in appeal after trying to evict client from property
An Auckland lawyer who transferred his client’s property into his name before trying to evict them has failed in an appeal after being struck off.
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal found Boon Gunn Hong guilty of professional misconduct and ordered he be removed from the roll of barristers and solicitors last year.
The findings of misconduct were for Hong’s personal involvement in transactions and financial dealings with clients, whom he has had a long-running dispute with over the purchase of a property in September 2005.
Hong was found to have transferred the title into the sole ownership of a company under his exclusive control, before eventually transferring the property to himself personally.
His client was unaware of what the lawyer was doing, with Hong later telling the tribunal the transfer was intended to give him unrestrained power to sell the property.
Hong, who had a more than 30-year legal career, also treated his client as a tenant in the property and unsuccessfully sought to have them evicted from the home in 2014.
The dispute remains entrenched and unresolved to this day.
Hong appealed against the tribunal’s decisions to the High Court, which upheld the ruling to have him struck off and had regard to the seriousness of the breaches, his poor disciplinary history, the need for deterrence and his lack of insight.
He then sought to have his case heard by the Court of Appeal.
This week, the appeal court ruled against another challenge by Hong and his application for leave to adduce further evidence.
“In our view, there is no basis for asserting that the tribunal and High Court have misdirected themselves on the standard of proof. We note too that in finding misconduct, both relied on Mr Hong’s admitted conduct and his own statements,”Justice Christine French wrote in the decision.
The application for further evidence was over a fund Hong established called the “Benevolence on the Conscience Loan Fund”, which was at the centre of an unsuccessful attempt to claim unpaid loans as tax-deductible losses for his legal practice.
The fund, which Hong said was to help long-standing clients who would benefit from his assistance has already been the subject of previous decisions in the Tax Review Authority, High Court and Court of Appeal.
Hong argued the evidence was necessary to rectify errors he claimed were made in the Tax Review Authority and “perverse material findings of fact” carried over into court decisions. The specific error, he said, was the finding he required clients to pay him a bonus in addition to paying him interest.
“The application is fundamentally misconceived,” Justice Christine French said.
“An appeal limited to a question of law is not an opportunity for relitigating factual findings, let alone findings from another proceeding. That is quite apart from the objection that this evidence is not fresh.”
Hong was also ordered by the Court of Appeal to pay costs to the Auckland Standards Committee, which brought the case against him.
Since 1997, Hong has been disciplined on nine further occasions, seven of which have been adverse findings made since January 2016.
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