Richmond lawyer Hong Guo has lost her appeal against a Law Society of BC hearing panel ruling that resulted in a one-month suspension on Jan. 17.
Guo, who currently faces disbarment proceedings in a related matter, had applied to the B.C. Court of Appeal following her suspension.
Guo had been found by an independent panel to have committed professional misconduct in her mishandling of trust funds.
Guo received advance payments and deposited the funds into a general account, not a trust fund, the panel found.
The court upheld the panel’s determination of facts that found Guo did not receive consent from her clients to put their money into her general account in 2018, as would have been required.
At the time, Guo was under an interim order with the society that required her to handle all trust transactions through specified accounts and to operate those accounts with a second signatory.
In April 2016, Guo reported to the society she had lost $7.5 million from a trust account. The money allegedly passed through a local casino before ending up in China, according to Guo.
“The [order] was made due to concerns about Ms. Guo’s operation of her trust accounts. There was evidence that she had provided signed blank trust cheques to her bookkeeper, failed to perform trust reconciliations before the alleged theft, failed to fully cooperate with the law society in responding to the alleged theft, and had earlier disbursed money from trust contrary to an undertaking and lacked insight into her conduct,” noted Justice Barbara Fisher.
The society had conducted a forensic audit of Guo in 2018, finding the trust account violations.
The society applied for a four-month suspension; the panel consisting of David Layton QC, Jeevyn Dhaliwal QC and Brendan Matthews, a public representative, handed Guo a one-month suspension.
Guo had argued a four-month suspension would “kill” her practice. She also claimed the society was systemically biased against her as a female, Asian lawyer — an argument the panel found to be meritless.
“In large part, Ms. Guo is re‑arguing the same legal issues she raised before the hearing panel. I find many of her arguments to be without merit,” stated Fisher in dismissing Guo’s appeal.
Presently, Guo faces a subsequent one-year suspension for the mishandling of the $7.5 million. The society has appealed the decision by panellists Jennifer Chow QC, Ralston Alexander QC and John Lane, public representative.
The society is seeking to disbar Guo, who faces eight ongoing citations.
Guo, whose website states she has a law degree from University of Windsor and is a former legal specialist for the state council of the People’s Republic of China, ran for mayor of Richmond in October 2018, claiming the city needed to reduce crime rates and improve traffic while also promoting more cultural ties and trade with China. She received 5% of the vote.
During her campaign she reportedly denied China has a record of human-rights violations. In 2019, she spoke out against the Canadian government’s detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
- With files from Richmond News