Thursday, November 23, 2023
The British Columbia Law Society has disbarred an attorney
This Citation, issued against the Respondent on November 26, 2020, is novel as it appears to be the first time a lawyer has been disciplined for money laundering – purposely using his status as a lawyer and his trust account to assist his clients to hide the illegal proceeds of their securities fraud. The Respondent utterly abandoned any pretense of acting ethically. He actively enabled his clients to benefit from their crimes. The Respondent knowingly assisted in or encouraged dishonesty, crime or fraud. The Respondent’s conduct is a gross dereliction of his duties as a lawyer and arguably made him a party after the fact to his clients’ frauds. For the reasons set out below the Respondent must be disbarred.
The Respondent’s misconduct in this case is extremely grave. At every stage, the Respondent acted, not to provide legitimate legal services, but rather to enable his clients to benefit from their securities fraud. The Respondent used his position as a lawyer and the principle of solicitor client privilege to hide proceeds of crime in his trust account. This is a gross breach of his duties and his acts must be viewed as extremely serious.
Considering all the above factors, disbarment is the only appropriate sanction. The Respondent knowingly assisted or encouraged dishonestly, crime or fraud. He knowingly assisted individuals to hide and use illegal proceeds from securities and tax fraud. The Respondent accepted or possessed stolen, fraudulent or otherwise illicit funds and carried out transactions which were intended to prevent the American authorities from detecting and/or seizing the illegal funds from the tax and securities frauds. The Respondent purposely abused solicitor client privilege to hide the illegal funds and enable his clients to profit from them.
A lawyer who knowingly assists in or encourages a crime or fraud cannot be allowed to practice law. This illegal and unethical behaviour must be denounced in the strongest possible way. Just like lawyers who are ungovernable, lawyers who take part in illicit schemes to assist their clients to commit crimes or purposely assist in hiding proceeds of crime must be disbarred. The public must know that illegal activities by lawyers will be severely sanctioned.
The Panel orders that the Respondent be disbarred.