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Embattled Richmond lawyer dropped by big bank, sued by another

Hong Guo faces three Law Society of B.C. citations. Hearing will explore allegations of professional misconduct related to the disappearance of $7.5 million from trust account
Richmond lawyer Hong Guo, during her failed bid to become mayor | Richmond News file photo

Facing a remarkable three citations from the Law Society of B.C., Richmond lawyer Hong Guo has now had TD Canada Trust abandon its business dealings with her as the two parties face a lawsuit as co-defendants against the Bank of Montreal.

After already facing a public discipline hearing for one citation last month, Guo is set to face another next month for the most significant allegations against her – the alleged misappropriation of $7.5 million from a trust account by one of her employees.

Guo specializes in corporate and real estate law. Based on court filings and her online profile she deals extensively with recent Chinese immigrants from mainland China investing in local businesses and property development.

The former 2018 mayoral candidate for the City of Richmond has had her two TD trust accounts come under the custodianship of the society, as ordered by the court last month after the bank informed Guo last September that it intended to end its business dealings with her and her firm Guo Law Corp., citing undisclosed “risk” factors.

The society had previously ordered Guo to maintain trust accounts only with TD while under investigation. Since TD abandoned its business relationship, the society was forced to take custodianship in December. The society had to first seek a court order after Guo failed to respond to a society request to vary the trust order conditions.

Guo (also known as Hong Chen) is facing numerous civil lawsuits. The most recent one is from Bank of Montreal.

In an August 2 notice of claim to BC Supreme Court, the bank is suing Guo and TD to recover $680,000 from Guo after she allegedly transferred the money from a Mytopia Inc. GIC account to her own BMO account then via a bank draft to her sister Min Guo, who then transferred it to Guo’s personal TD account.

The BMO claim states Guo is a current or former shareholder of Mytopia Inc. whose director Yonglang Wang notified the bank that Guo was not solely authorized to transfer funds. BMO claims it relied on “good faith” when it took Guo’s word. As such BMO alleges Guo made misrepresentations to the bank and was unjustly enriched.

Guo has not filed a response to the unproven claim.

As part of Guo’s rising slough of legal matters, she also stands accused of providing false and misleading information to the society.

Last month Guo commenced a discipline hearing that explores allegations Guo acted in a conflict of interest while representing several clients in connection to the purchase of two forestry-related companies.

The hearing centres on former Guo client Jun Yuan’s civil claim alleging that Guo kept him in the dark as to the status of his investment, which Guo also took part in. For some time Yuan, as a shareholder, claimed Guo failed in her fiduciary duties as a lawyer. Guo also had her sister involved in the dealings.

The hearing was extended last month and will run from April 27 to May 8, according to society spokesperson David Jordan.

A more significant hearing begins February 3.

In December 2016 Guo had accused her bookkeeper Zixin Li (now arrested in China, according to Guo) of stealing $7.5 million and laundering it through properties and a casino before fleeing to China. The society claims, among other things, that she failed to properly supervise Li as she is the authorized person in charge of the trust account. Guo subsequently claimed she repaid the trust account with her own money. She is also suing CIBC over the money’s disappearance.

According to the citation, Guo had as much as $196.6 million in one of many trust accounts in 2016.

A third citation is on the books but no hearing is scheduled. This one involves the alleged breach of a society order and professional misconduct related to how she allegedly inappropriately handled trust fund accounts. Significant details of all the allegations are not published by the society online and none of them have been proven by a society panel.

If a hearing panel proves any or all of Guo’s citations, Guo will face disciplinary action ranging between a reprimand, a fine, a suspension or disbarment, according to Jordan. It is extremely rare for the society to hold a hearing and not issue some form of discipline.

Also, in September 2018, it was reported Guo was being sued by two immigrant investors who claim she acted in a conflict of interest in a real estate transaction in on Minoru Boulevard in Richmond.

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. Last year she spoke out against the Canadian government’s detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

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