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Richmond lawyer Hong Guo disbarred by Law Society of BC panel

A wide array of professional misconduct findings, from trust account violations to conflicts of interest and misleading investigators, had plagued Hong Guo's legal career.
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Hong Guo, making her Richmond mayoral bid in 2018. File photo

Presently suspended Richmond lawyer Hong Guo has now been disbarred by the Law Society of BC, after having recently been found to have committed professional misconduct for a fifth time and before she is to face four more hearings.

According to a tribunal panel decision issued Nov. 17, Guo’s 23-year career as a lawyer in Canada appears to be done, barring any successful appeal of the decision that deemed Guo ungovernable.

“The principles of specific deterrence, general deterrence and protection of the public interest require the sanction of disbarment,” the panel concluded.

The panel of Sarah Westwood KC, Gillian Dougans and Carol Gibson wrote a scathing rebuke of Guo’s pleas for a lesser penalty based on her position that her errors were isolated incidents; that she was discriminated against for being a Chinese-Canadian lawyer and a woman; and that that she provided free services to vulnerable people.

The panel found little evidence of pro bono work at Guo Law Corporation in Richmond. Rather, it noted most of Guo’s practice could be described as a “very busy immigration and real estate practice for immigration clients with funds to invest in the province’s PNP program and real estate transactions involving hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Guo argued her bilingual services were vital for the Chinese-Canadian community; however, the panel noted no shortage of Mandarin-speaking lawyers in Vancouver.

“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,” wrote the panel.

Guo’s attempt to mitigate her repeated misconduct was also rejected by the panel.

“This panel does not accept the respondent’s characterization of her conduct as an isolated incident in which she was trying to help her clients from an economic point of view. This panel also does not agree that the respondent’s conduct in repeatedly providing inaccurate information to the law society over a period of years was the result of the fallibility of human memory, unintentional and the result of a busy practice.”

The Richmond-based lawyer, who also has an office in Beijing, is a former legal specialist for the state council of the People’s Republic of China. Guo is facing multiple lawsuits related to business transactions she took part in.

Guo 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 five per cent of the vote.

Among the nine citations against Guo since September 2018, the case that ultimately got Guo disbarred involved a complex set of business transactions whereby Guo was found to have inserted herself into legal proceedings of her clients from China.

  • breach of trust accounting rules;
  • conflict of interest;
  • misrepresentations to the law society;
  • failure to supervise staff;
  • misappropriation and mishandling of trust funds;
  • breach of law society orders;
  • breach of an undertaking to the law society; and,
  • knowingly making false representations to the law society.

Guo exhibited “a lack of appreciation or understanding of a lawyer’s gatekeeper obligations with respect to money laundering,” the society submitted.

Guo has often utilized her right to appeal decisions, as she did with the suspension, which was ultimately upheld last March. As such she was presently suspended before Friday. One of her four outstanding citations is for practicing law while suspended.

On Dec.18 Guo issued an online statement via Clearway Law. 

gwood@glaciermedia.ca

This article was updated Dec.22 to add Guo's statement.