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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – A well-known New Zealand businessman who was found with hundreds of images of child sexual abuse relinquished his knighthood on Tuesday before it was handed down to him removed.

Last month Ron Brierley pleaded guilty to three counts in an Australian court, triggering a rarely-used proceeding to deprive him of the honor he received more than 30 years ago.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said his intention was to strip Brierley’s title if he hadn’t written to relinquish it first. Ardern said British Queen Elizabeth II had been notified and that Brierley would be no longer able to use the honorary title ‘Sir’.

“I think it is a sad day for the children of New Zealand and indeed the world when someone is convicted of possessing such horrific pictures,” Ardern told reporters. “It is just that there are important consequences for this, because as a country we have to reject anyone who thinks it is good.”

Ardern said Brierley was found with more than 1,000 images showing abused children, which completely rewrote his story.

Brierley faces a maximum of 10 years in prison when convicted. He was taken with images in his luggage at Sydney International Airport in 2019 and authorities later discovered it at his home in Sydney.

One of his guilty pleas involves photographs of girls as young as 2 in sexually suggestive poses. Another relates to a data storage device found at his home that allegedly contained more than 1,600 images of child abuse.

Brierley’s attorney disputed the number of images in question.

Now 83, Brierley in the 1970s and 1980s executed a series of aggressive business maneuvers that made Brierley Investments Ltd. one of the largest companies in the country.

His profile had faded somewhat following the 1987 stock market crash, but he continued to do business in New Zealand and in his new homeland of Australia.

The NBR business publication ranks Brierley among New Zealand’s 100 richest people, with an estimated fortune of NZ $ 220 million ($ 153 million).

The next hearing date in the Brierley case is scheduled for later in May.

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