In Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday Magistrate William Pierce ruled Mr Hanafi intended to permanently deprive Nicole Valmont of her property when he unlawfully took her wallet and passport from her bag at the Crows Nest Hotel on November 17 last year. Mr Hanafi, who runs Lion Legal law firm in Sydney’s CBD, was convicted under a Section 9 12-month good behaviour bond. The court was shown CCTV footage of the incident, which captured Mr Hanafi taking Ms Valmont’s bag from under a table near the dance floor while she was outside having a cigarette. Mr Hanafi was filmed walking into a separate room, kneeling down next to Ms Valmont’s bag, removing items (her wallet and passport) from the bag and tucking them into his jacket pockets. A short time later, Mr Hanafi left the hotel, caught a cab and dumped the wallet and the passport in a bin on the corner of Falcon St and Military Rd. Mr Hanafi and Ms Valmont met for the first time earlier that night at a Selborne Chambers barrister’s function at Verandah Bar in the city. The pair “clicked” and decided to kick on for more drinks at Bar Europa before catching a cab to the Crows Nest Hotel, arriving at about 1am for a night cap. Mr Hanafi told the court Ms Valmont produced a small, clear, rectangular satchel containing white powder and offered to share it while they were in the cab. Ms Valmont and the prosecution denied this action took place. “My answer is no way. No way,” Ms Valmont told the court. Mr Hanafi said he took Ms Valmont’s bag in a “panicked state” when he could not locate her on the dance floor and saw a flash of police lights outside the hotel. “I panicked…I realised Ms Valmont had something in her bag she might need to deal with, I made a split second decision to get her bag to her,” Mr Hanafi said. “I didn’t know what to do, I wanted to return Ms Valmont’s items but the police were there.” Prosecutor Timothy O’Donnell said at no time did Mr Hanafi attempt to make contact with Ms Valmont to inform her he had her property. Mr Hanafi’s legal representative Richard Killalea said his client acted out of chilvary “to protect Ms Valmont from being caught with those items in her possession.” Magistrate Pierce said the dumping of Ms Valmont’s items in a bin was a clear indication Mr Hanafi had dishonest intentions from the beginning. “I find the offence proved beyond reasonable doubt, the most damning evidence of all is depositing of the items in a bin…hiding stuff under the pool table indicated planning which is inconsistent with panic,” Magistrate Pierce said. A spokesman for the Law Society of NSW said Mr Hanafi had an obligation to disclose his conviction so a committee could assess whether he could continue to practise as a solicitor. .
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