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HomeBusinessEmbattled Richmond lawyer aims to overturn disbarment order

Embattled Richmond lawyer aims to overturn disbarment order

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Bob Mackin

The Richmond immigration and real estate lawyer disbarred in late 2023 is willing to pay a line to regain her licence. 

A Law Society of B.C. [LSBC] tribunal decided Nov. 17 that Hong Guo was “ungovernable” and could no longer practice law because of a “lengthy, serious and highly aggravating” record of professional misconduct, including breach of trust accounting rules, conflict of interest, misrepresentations, misappropriation and mishandling of trust funds and breach of LSBC orders.

Richmond lawyer Hong Guo announced her run for Mayor of Richmond last June.

“She has shown little insight into the findings made against her and continues to see herself as a victim,” the decision said. “She has taken almost no steps to educate herself on her responsibilities, to train her staff or organize her practice.”

Guo was already serving a one-year suspension that began last March, after practicing under a 2017 supervision order. Her disbarment was effective the date of the decision. 

On Dec. 15, Guo filed a two-page notice of review to LSBC lawyers Kenneth McEwan and Saheli Sodhi, contesting the Nov. 17 decision to cancel her licence to practice and assess costs against her. Guo wants a new hearing where she will seek an order to dismiss the disbarment order “in whole or in part.” 

“In the alternative, that the discipline action decision be substituted with a decision imposing a fine, rather than a disbarment and that the responded be awarded costs of the hearings and the review.” 

Guo wants two issues considered in the review. First, whether the panel misapprehended the evidence or failed to give weight to relevant factors against the misconduct decision. Secondly, whether the panel misapprehended evidence or failed to give weight to relevant factors against disbarment “and that a fine was an appropriate disciplinary action in all circumstances.”

She cited letters of reference and support for her, hearing panel findings and evidence supporting the application of Charter values in determining appropriate disciplinary.

However, Guo could be on her own if a hearing is scheduled. 

A statement sent from her representative, ClearWay Law website CEO Alistair Vigier, said she had “run out of money to retain a lawyer. 

“I have spent millions of dollars to fully cover my clients and to retain lawyers to deal with the Law Society in the past few years which brings me into an extremely difficult financial situation,” said the Guo statement. 

Guo earlier issued a statement on the ClearWay website in mid-December in which she referred to herself as “wrongfully accused.” It recounted her efforts to prosecute two employees, accountant Jeff Li Zixin and legal assistant Pan Qian, who she said “schemed to steal $7.58 million from my law firm’s CIBC account” and fled to China in April 2016. She said Li and Pan were sentenced by a court in Zhuhai, China to 13 and 15 years in prison, respectively.

“Neither the Richmond [RCMP] police nor the Law Society offered me any support; instead, the LSBC has been a constant source of trouble and distress for me. I am battling depression and have been hospitalized due to their prolonged persecution.”

Richmond 2018 Mayoral candidate Hong Guo

Last March, a five-member LSBC review board rejected the society’s earlier 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.

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 and make her clients whole again. 

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. Prior to election day, she denied in an interview with a reporter that China had committed human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims and journalists, among others. 

Guo’s appearance in a 2018 Globe and Mail story caught the attention of LSBC. The story mentioned one of her clients was admitted Richmond casino loan shark Paul King Jin and Guo boasted 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.” When an LSBC staff lawyer asked her, Guo denied that real estate transactions could be used for money laundering. 

“The Chinese-Canadian community needs and deserves lawyers who practice in compliance with the Law Society’s oversight. No client needs a lawyer who bends the rules and disregards the Law Society’s rules and regulations. This puts the individual client at risk and lowers the public confidence in the integrity of the profession and the ability of the Law Society to regulate lawyers,” said the LSBC’s November decision. 

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