Former Liberal MP Raj Grewal is still allowed to practice law while awaiting trial on allegations that he cheated more than $ 1 million to quench his wild gambling addiction in office.
The Law Society of Ontario has postponed a disciplinary hearing against Grewal and has agreed to restrict and monitor his attorney practice until his criminal charges of fraud and breach of trust are resolved by the court.
Both the criminal charges and professional disciplinary proceedings relate to Grewal’s activities when he was an MP for Ontario’s Brampton East Riding and a practicing attorney.
Nader Hasan, a lawyer representing Grewal, requested the postponement at a Law Society Tribunal hearing on Wednesday. He told the tribunal that his client was struggling with a gambling addiction when he received large loans.
“The root of what led to this set of facts was a gambling problem. Mr. Grewal has dealt directly with this issue since 2018 and sought medical treatment for the gambling problem, ”Hasan said.
“From practically the first quarter of 2019 until now there has been an unbroken chain that Mr. Grewal is doing very well and to the extent that there was a gambling problem, that problem is in remission.”
The tribunal was told that he has not played at all since 2018.
Grewal was charged with criminal charges by the RCMP in September 2020, with four breaches of trust and one case of $ 5,000 fraud.
Three trusting indictments relate to the same loans under scrutiny by the Law Society of Ontario and other loans that Grewal took out from family and friends and subsequently repaid, the tribunal has reported. The fourth trust fee breach and fraud fee relate to alleged financial transactions in the Grewal constituency office.
Hasan said the bar would not have to worry about public backlash if it delayed Grewal’s responsibility as a lawyer.
“This is certainly not a case in which the public is pressing for these proceedings to proceed,” said Hasan. “None of the alleged victims here have complained about Mr. Grewal. They were all made healthy and none of them complained to the police or the bar association. ”
The Bar Association ordered a disciplinary hearing in Grewal accusing them of professional misconduct and conduct that was inappropriate for a lawyer.
The company claims he used false pretenses to borrow or borrow money between $ 50,000 and $ 250,000 from six people and one company from June 2016 to December 2017.
Hasan said these weren’t the only people Grewal borrowed money from while he was frantically gambling.
“There have been many, many lenders. Far more than seven, ”he said. However, he denied that any of them were related to Grewal’s legal practice. While the bar has claimed one of the loans came from a company that was a Grewal customer, Hasan said the loan was actually from a friend who owned the company.
Grewal was not involved in the trial, which was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“While my client would want nothing better than to move this matter swiftly to a hearing in this forum, this is the proverbial rock and hard place because he cannot risk these proceedings to overtake criminal proceedings, which are always at risk disciplinary context, ”said Hasan.
Tanus Rutherford, attorney for the Bar Association, agreed to the adjournment.
“The behavior that is inappropriate appears to be due to a mental health problem for which the licensee is now seeking treatment,” Rutherford said.
While waiting for the disciplinary hearing, Grewal retains his legal license and ability to practice law, albeit with “restricted practice” status. He consented to extensive financial restrictions, reporting, and supervision by the bar association, including maintaining only one escrow account and one general account for his legal practice.
He completed self-exclusion programs with the provincial gambling authorities in Ontario and Quebec, pledging not to borrow money, directly or indirectly, from any customer except in accordance with the law, and to refrain from gambling both in person and online.
Hasan said Grewal’s criminal case is scheduled for eight week hearings in Ottawa in October and November.
“We have taken the position that the Crown really shouldn’t take the matter to court on a number of charges,” he said. He hopes that the scope of the Crown’s allegations can be “further reduced” during the pre-trial discussions.
He suggested that the bar association hearing could probably take place before the end of the year.
Grewal began his practice as a lawyer in 2014. He became a rookie MP for Riding from Brampton East, Ontario in the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 and continued to practice part-time as a lawyer.
He resigned from the liberal caucus on November 22, 2018, citing “personal and medical reasons”. He later admitted seeking treatment for a gambling addiction after accumulating millions of dollars in personal debt playing high-stakes blackjack.
He remained in the House of Commons as an independent MP, but did not seek re-election in 2019.
Since leaving politics, he’s returned to his law firm full time.
The Chair of the Tribunal, Frederika Rotter, said the panel was satisfied with the arrangements and the protection of the public interest and orally granted the postponement at the hearing.
Written reasons for the decision will be announced later.
The Law Society of Ontario regulates, licenses, and disciplines attorneys and paralegals working in Ontario. The Law Society Tribunal is an independent tribunal within the Law Society.
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