Lawyer Alan Munt jailed for swindling $5m from clients, police slammed for not investigating case

A Supreme Court judge has savaged Victoria Police over its refusal, because of a lack of resources, to investigate a lawyer who swindled nearly $5 million from clients.

Justice Betty King, when jailing Alan Munt for eight-and-a-half years on Thursday, said police had failed the many victims duped by the trusted lawyer and former Victoria Hockey Association president.

Munt, 61, an undischarged bankrupt, confessed to his crimes in September 2009 but police refused repeated requests from the Legal Services Board to investigate him until the Office of Public Prosecutions intervened and he was finally charged in 2014.

“It is a sad indictment on the priorities of a policing organisation that they claim they cannot conduct an investigation into large sums of money stolen by a solicitor from members of the public, due to having inadequate resources …” Justice King said.

The judge described the long delay in having the case finalised as entirely unacceptable.

“It is patently clear that Victoria Police despite being aware that serious offences of theft and deception had occurred … consistently refused to investigate or assist the investigation of this offending, and the investigation had to be outsourced to a private investigation company.

“That was a wholly inefficient, time consuming, time wasting unnecessary process, that could have been alleviated by the police doing their job.”

Justice King said Munt’s crimes had been appalling and involved predatory, manipulative and scheming behaviour.

“There is no doubt that you have abused the trust of so many of your clients, family, friends and even your staff,” the judge told Munt.

“You have left in your wake pain and suffering, feelings of loss, distrust, in some cases financial deprivation and heartache.

“For a number of the people from whom you stole or defrauded significant sums of money, this has been a long, slow and agonising process to get to this point.”

Munt, a father of three who pleaded guilty to nine counts of theft, eight counts of obtaining property by deception, eight counts of causing a deficiency in trust accounts and two counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, was jailed for eight-and-a-half years with a non-parole period of five-and-a-half years.

He confessed to the Law Institute of Victoria in September 2009 to having set up a Ponzi scheme and siphoning more than $4.8 million from clients between 1998-2009. The case was passed on to the Legal Services Board.

The former Mentone Grammar and Monash University student, who began practising law in 1980,  admitted creating false mortgage documents and forged clients’ signatures, which he would then witness himself.

Detectives from the fraud and extortion squad finally interviewed Munt in December 2012, when he made full admissions, but he was not charged until March 11, 2014.

“The public have been very poorly served by all of the organisations involved in this investigation, but I am particularly critical of the Victoria Police for putting resourcing issues ahead of the investigation of very serious criminal offending,” the judge said.

“This offending related to numerous citizens, some wealthy, some not at all wealthy, and placing all of their available funds at the disposal of the prisoner.

“I can only hope that this sorry episode is never repeated. It is grossly unfair that all of the complainants in this matter have had to wait so long for this matter to be heard and determined.

“The Legal Services Board says that it has put in place processes to ensure that it never happens again, I would hope that Victoria Police have also done the same.”

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