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Controversial Richmond lawyer Hong Guo may still get disbarred

Guo had been previously found to have committed professional misconduct by her industry's governing body
Hong Guo, making her Richmond mayoral bid in 2018. File photo

The Law Society of BC is appealing a professional disciplinary panel’s decision to ban a Richmond lawyer for a year – after it asked for disbarment.

The society – which is independent of its own disciplinary panel – has sought the ultimate disposal of disbarment for real estate and immigration lawyer Hong Guo.

She was found by the same panel to have committed professional misconduct by failing to supervise her employees, failing to comply with trust accounting rules, and leaving a series of blank signed trust cheques with her bookkeeper, which facilitated the bookkeeper’s theft of $7.5 million of client trust funds.

The panel also found earlier this year that Guo misappropriated trust funds from some clients, in order to replace funds missing from other clients’ trust accounts that were needed to complete pending real estate transactions.

However, given that some of her misconduct was motivated by an intention to ensure pending transactions were completed in time and that all clients affected were repaid, the disciplinary panel decided to suspend Guo for a year, as opposed to disbarment.

The society released a statement Friday morning saying that it has applied to the Law Society Tribunal for a review of the panel’s decision into Guo just getting suspended for a year, which was due to start next month.

According to the society, Guo’s suspension has now been stayed, pending the outcome of the review.

A date for the review board hearing has not been set and, added the society, will be posted to the website when it is scheduled.

Following the end of the latest disciplinary proceedings for Guo, she was ordered to pay the Law Society its costs, totalling $47,329.44.

She still faces a string of other alleged misconduct allegations, which the society are currently looking into.

Guo has never been far from controversy in the last few years, having run unsuccessfully for mayor in Richmond in 2018, all while the aforementioned misconduct allegations were unravelling.

In her defence, she claimed that her bookkeeper stole $7.5 million from her law firm’s trust accounts in 2016, before laundering the cash at a casino and fleeing to China.

Guo told the society’s disciplinary panel that her mistake “was placing trust in her employee who took advantage of her trust to commit a sophisticated scam” and her actions didn’t amount to professional misconduct.

She said her subsequent attempts to repay to her clients the “stolen” $7.5 million – which the society ruled as a breach of trust accounting rules – was an honest bid to minimize the overall impact of the missing trust funds on her clients.

The panel heard last year how Guo had deposited $2.6 million of her own money and $4 million from an insurance policy to repay the missing millions.

And she made the headlines again this past summer when the Richmond News reported how Guo lost a law suit over a disputed $740,000 renovation bill at her offices in Richmond.

She was been ordered to pay $311,000 plus interest and court costs of $100,000 to IRL Construction, after it was hired to carry out an extensive renovation project at her No. 3 Road office building.