The Richmond real estate and immigration lawyer, who formerly worked inside the Chinese Communist government, has been disbarred.
In a 75-page decision issued Nov. 17, and released Nov. 20, a Law Society of B.C. [LSBC] tribunal declared Hong Guo “ungovernable.”
Guo was already serving a one-year suspension that began last March, after practicing under a 2017 supervision order.
“The panel finds that the Law Society has clearly proven, on a balance of probabilities, that the respondent is ungovernable. Her [professional conduct record] is lengthy, serious and highly aggravating,” said the decision written by panel member Gillian Dougans. “She has shown little insight into the findings made against her and continues to see herself as a victim. She has taken almost no steps to educate herself on her responsibilities, to train her staff or organize her practice.”
The decision also said that Guo is quick to apologize and offer to improve, but “she has failed to adhere to the practice supervision agreement.”
LSBC discipline counsel Kenneth McEwan had told the tribunal that Guo undermined the public’s confidence in the integrity of the legal profession by failing or refusing to rehabilitate herself, despite significant LSBC intervention.
The decision recounted Guo’s decade of practice and conduct reviews, breaches of undertakings, compliance failures and administrative suspensions. It cited a concern stemming from a February 2018 Globe and Mail story about Guo working for individuals related to drug crimes, including admitted casino loan shark Paul King Jin. Guo boasted at the time to a reporter that she was “the biggest Chinese lawyer in the Chinese community. We do $600 million a year in transactions. Maybe that is why we are a target for criminal activities.”
LSBC told the panel that Guo had failed on five counts to alter her conduct, by failure to respond to LSBC inquiries, neglect of duties to report trust account transactions, misleading behaviour to a client and/or LSBC, and a lengthy history of misconduct and breaches of undertaking.
Four hearing panels have made “wide-ranging findings of professional misconduct,” including breach of trust accounting rules, conflict of interest, misrepresentations to the LSBC, failure to supervise staff, misappropriation and mishandling of trust funds, breach of LSBC orders, breach of an undertaking to the Law Society, and knowingly making false representations tot he Law Society.”
Examples given by the LSBC include the $7.5 million theft from her trust account in April 2016 and subsequent breaches of undertakings and orders and her lack of cooperation to produce records requested about her bank account in China.
Guo had asked for leniency and pleaded for sympathy, based on alleged racial and gender discrimination, as well as an abusive husband prior to 2016.
“The respondent was asked if there was anything else she wanted to tell the panel about how she would be affected if she was disbarred. She said that she cares about her reputation and her dignity and that if she were to be disbarred she does not know how she would survive,” the decision said.
Last March, a five-member LSBC review board rejected the society’s bid to strip Guo of her licence, opting instead for the 12-month ban.
LSBC had found in late 2021 that Guo committed professional misconduct by misappropriation, breaching trust accounting obligations, failing to properly supervise her bookkeeper, and breaching an undertaking and a Law Society order.
Guo had alleged that bookkeeper Zixin “Jeff” Li took the $7.5 million from her firm’s trust accounts for 100 clients in 2016, laundered the cash at a casino and fled to China.
The society found that Guo had signed blank trust cheques and left them with Li before departing on a two-week vacation in March 2016. But the review board noted Guo had deposited $2.6 million of family money and $4 million from the insurance policy to repay the trust account.
Guo originally came to Canada in 1993 and studied law at the University of Windsor. She worked in the State Council in China’s central government and was called to the B.C. bar in 2009.
In 2018, Guo finished fourth in the Richmond mayoral election after an interview with theBreaker.news in which she denied the existence of China’s well-documented human rights abuses.
Guo was formerly represented by Craig Jones, the Thompson Rivers University law professor who became counsel to Premier David Eby in November 2022. One of her two lawyers in the 2023 matter was David Gruber, who represented Gateway Casinos during the Cullen Commission public inquiry into money laundering.
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