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With a new lawyer’s help, judge pauses threat to jail Hong Guo

Richmond immigration and real estate lawyer Hong Guo was one of several parties sued in 2018 for fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract relating to a collapsed $40 million real estate deal
Richmond immigration and real estate lawyer Hong Guo retained David Butcher on Oct. 28 | Photo: Daisy Xiong, Richmond News

Embattled Richmond immigration and real estate lawyer Hong Guo avoided jail again for civil contempt of court, after she came to B.C. Supreme Court Monday with a high-profile lawyer.

Justice Gordon Weatherill had threatened Oct. 14 to keep Guo in custody for 40 days after she failed to provide financial documents to a civil case in which she is a defendant. 

Guo retained David Butcher on Oct. 28, the week after her previous appearance before Weatherill. Weatherill agreed to adjourn the case to Dec. 8 to give Butcher more time.

“Mr. Butcher you are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise disastrous situation involving your client,” said Weatherill, who took a break so that Butcher could confer with Guo about the length of his retainer. 

“I intend to get to the bottom of this and, with you involved, there's some hope.”

After the break, Butcher said he would remain Guo’s lawyer, but revealed that she had begun counselling. 

“It is very apparent that she has some issues that have not been explored at any point to date, so I'm prepared to stay till the end of that,” Butcher told the court. “My willingness to do that does depend on Ms. Guo’s cooperation in every way that clients are supposed to cooperate with counsel.”

In May 2018, immigrant investors Qing Yan and his wife Kai Ming Yu sued Guo, Zhong Ping Xu, Xiao Hong Liu, 1032821 B.C. Ltd., Vancouver Soho Holding Ltd and Canada Sparkle Long Holdings Inc. for fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract relating to a collapsed $40 million real estate deal. 

Yu and Yan hired Guo in 2013 to assist their immigration application. Guo introduced them to Xu and Liu, the principals behind Canada Sparkle, and they entered a joint venture for the Vancouver Soho high-density commercial and residential project on Minoru and Lansdowne in Richmond. 

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that Guo acted as lawyer for both Vancouver Soho and Canada Sparkle and took advantage of the plaintiffs’ poor English skills. 

Butcher told Weatherill that he agreed with Glen Forrester, the lawyer for Yan and Yu, that Guo’s office records are “a complete mess.” She attributed that to the alleged 2016 theft of $7.5 million from her firm’s trust account by her accountant. 

“He did make the comment that Ms. Guo is of little practical assistance in helping herself: In her affidavit, she says, at times she feels paralyzed, and she's her own worst enemy, and is not really capable of assisting herself and that's why I suggested others get involved,” Butcher said.

Weatherill warned Guo to not mislead Butcher like she had done to him. 

“I expect you to cooperate with Mr. Butcher, you understand?” Weatherill asked. “If you do not cooperate with Mr. Butcher, then I'm not going to be happy. Do you understand that?”

Guo replied: “Yes.”

Earlier this year, Butcher was one of two special prosecutors in the trial of disgraced former B.C. Legislature clerk Craig James, who was found guilty of breach of public trust. 

Butcher represented Brad Desmarais, the B.C. Lottery Corporation’s former chief operating officer, during the Cullen Commission public inquiry on money laundering in B.C.

Guo was not called to testify at the inquiry, but her name was mentioned because she had represented Paul King Jin, the Richmond man banned from B.C. casinos for alleged money laundering and loan sharking. 

Guo finished fourth in the 2018 Richmond mayoral election after denying that China had any human rights problems. Her firm has offices in Richmond and Beijing, where she once worked as a lawyer in the Chinese Communist Party government’s state council. 

The Law Society of B.C. issued nine disciplinary citations against Guo from September 2018 to July 2021 and is seeking her disbarment.