Auckland lawyer Boon Gunn Hong has been struck off the Roll of barristers and solicitors by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal after transferring clients’ property into his own name without the clients’ knowledge.
At the time of being struck off Mr Hong had already been suspended for three months in separate disciplinary proceedings.
The strike-off followed a finding of misconduct by the Tribunal in relation to Mr Hong’s dealings with two clients and a trust over a property purchase in September 2005. The property purchase ran into problems and Mr Hong stepped in to assist with a substantial personal financial input.
His client described the proposal as a joint venture, with settlement due to occur in August 2006. However, transfer of the title did not happen until July 2008, when Mr Hong transferred the title into the joint names of a trustee and himself, even though he was no longer the trustee of the trust. A week later he transferred the title into the sole ownership of a company under his sole control, and eventually transferred the title into his own personal name. Mr Hong’s clients gave evidence that they were unaware of these steps. Mr Hong treated his client as a tenant and in 2014 Mr Hong unsuccessfully attempted to evict his client from the property. Their dispute is still unresolved.
The Tribunal endorsed the Standards Committee’s arguments that “it was difficult to envisage a more compromising situation involving a lawyer entering into a personal transaction with clients where he had an eye to personal profit”. It also highlighted Mr Hong’s lack of insight and remorse and his extensive past disciplinary history.
Dissatisfied with the Tribunal’s decision, Mr Hong made an appeal to the High Court, which was dismissed. Mr Hong then sought leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal but that was declined. His application to cite fresh evidence was also declined by the Court of Appeal. Mr Hong remains struck off.