A Geraldton hotel owner has been found guilty of stealing almost $3million from an Aboriginal charitable trust while he was the trustee.

Thomas “Graham” Greenaway, a financial planner, was convicted on 34 charges after a two-week trial related to the theft of $2.9million.

The trust was established to distribute income from mine royalties to the Yugunga-Nya People.

The prosecution alleged that Greenaway used the money as a “personal ATM” to prop up his struggling Freemasons Hotel, adding that he had “abused his position of power and trust for his own purposes”.

On Friday a District Court jury in Geraldton found Greenaway guilty of 33 counts of stealing and one of gaining a benefit with intent to defraud.

The jury was told he had registered a company, FAWRKT Pty Ltd, in 2010 and transferred large amounts of money into it from the trust.

Greenaway pleaded not guilty and his defence argued the company was an investment on behalf of the Yugunga-Nya People’s Trust’s Aboriginal beneficiaries.

The company’s link to the trust, he claimed, was not widely known because Geraldton was a “racist town” and he alleged there could be a backlash.

In his closing address, prosecutor Jason Chu told the jury that Greenaway “knew he was not entitled to use trust money for his own business”.

They took four hours to return a guilty verdict.

While the judge said it was “almost inevitable” Greenaway would receive an immediate term of imprisonment, bail was granted ahead of sentencing on October 28 because he is a long-term resident of Geraldton and not considered a flight risk.

Chris Dann, Acting Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation CEO, told the National Indigenous Times that YMAC has not been involved in the operation or oversight of the Yugunga-Nya trust.

“As every native title group’s financial needs are unique, YMAC encourages all groups to conduct due diligence and seek independent, professional advice to ensure their individual requirements are met,” she said.

By Giovanni Torre