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HomeBusinessEmbattled lawyer Hong Guo loses another court battle 

Embattled lawyer Hong Guo loses another court battle 

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Bob Mackin

A disbarred Richmond real estate and immigration lawyer failed to convince a B.C. Supreme Court judge that her signature had been forged on a cheque for nearly $900,000. 

Hong Guo and her Guo Law Corp. sued former bookkeeper Jeff Zixin Li and former conveyancing clerk Danica Qian Pan, along with BMO, CIBC and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment.

Guo alleged that between February and April 2016, Li and Pan “conspired to misappropriate” more than $6.6 million from Guo’s trust account at CIBC. She alleged Pan moved funds through the BMO branch located in the same building as her office and transferred the money by bank drafts to an account at Gateway.

Hong Guo

On June 27, Justice Neena Sharma dismissed Guo’s application for a summary judgment. At issue is a single cheque for $887,562 deposited at the Richmond branch of BMO into an account owned by Pan. CIBC had refused to handle the cheque, but BMO claims it has suffered a loss. 

“While the misappropriation of trust funds may not be in dispute, the parties disagree about the plaintiffs’ role in, knowledge of, and responsibility for that misappropriation,” Sharma wrote.

Guo filed the lawsuit in July 2016 and claimed to have worked with Chinese authorities to investigate and prosecute Li and Pan. Early this year, she released court documents from China that said Li and Pan were sentenced by a court in Zhuhai, China to 13 and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Guo started a new action against CIBC in early 2018 in Vancouver and later added BMO and Gateway as defendants.

The judge noted that the Law Society of B.C. found that Guo improperly left at least 125 pre-signed, blank cheques drawn on her firm’s trust account with Li in mid-March 2016. That led, in part, to the Law Society’s finding that Guo failed to properly supervise her staff. Li and Pan filled out the pre-signed cheques by adding payee names and accounts.

BMO’s counterclaim sought payment of Cheque 1117 by Guo, the final cheque in a sequence cashed by Pan. 

Guo told the court that BMO has no authority to enforce payment because her signature was forged. 

Sharma said there were two issues for her to decide. Whether the matter is suitable for summary judgment and, if so, whether BMO was holder in due course of Cheque 1117.

Guo denied signing the cheque and denied authorizing anyone to sign it, but she did not explain to the court how or why she knows that. As such, she “failed to establish that there is no genuine triable issue as to whether BMO was a holder in due course of Cheque 1117.”

Sharma called Guo’s memory lapses and cognitive issues “troubling” and lacking reliability. 

“Guo’s evidence of hardship is wholly inadequate. She provides no documents or certified records regarding her overall assets, income, liabilities, or debt. Remarkably, she attempts to rely on her inability to work as creating hardship to justify her access to the funds paid into Court, even though her inability to work arose from her own misconduct, suspension, and ultimate disbarment,” Sharma wrote.

“I add that it may be contrary to the interests of justice to allow a lawyer disbarred for her own misconduct (as opposed to mental health or disability issues) to successfully claim financial hardship when that would have the effect of giving her success on an application on which they otherwise could not succeed.”

Guo originally came to Canada from China 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 this reporter that China had committed human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims and journalists, among others.

A Law Society of B.C. [tribunal decided last November that 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.” 

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