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Twice-disbarred Richmond lawyer claimed 'damaged' brain, heads back to China

The Law Society of BC wants full custodianship of former lawyer Hong Guo's files but Guo is understood to be in China, according to her locum.
Hong Guo, making her Richmond mayoral bid in 2018. File photo

Twice-disbarred B.C. lawyer Hong Guo is understood to have left Canada for China and it’s unclear when she will return — although a sentencing hearing for her contempt of court is tentatively scheduled for May 21.

On March 22, a seventh independent tribunal of the Law Society of BC determined Guo committed professional misconduct and on April 19 the society applied to B.C. Supreme Court for full custodianship of her now shuttered practice Guo Law Corp. in Richmond.

Seventh finding of professional misconduct

The seventh finding resulted from a June 2023 hearing wherein Guo claimed that her brain was “damaged;” however, the tribunal noted no expert opinion evidence was submitted “to support, corroborate or explain [Guo’s] statement that her brain was damaged.”

Although Guo has been disbarred twice, in addition to two suspensions, the society continues to pursue the completion of five other citations. In three of those cases, Guo has been found to have committed professional misconduct while in one case she only breached legal regulations; Guo awaits discipline in those four cases while a ninth and final case — for allegedly practicing law under a suspension — is in the hearing stage.

In short, tribunals have found Guo misappropriated funds to complete business transactions, had conflicts of interest with clients, made misrepresentations to society investigators and was generally found to be "ungovernable."

“Guo’s discipline history is also replete with concerns about her practice and file management, competence and ability to cooperate with the law society,” the society noted in a Nov. 20 statement upon her first disbarment.

Guo now seeks to have a review hearing for that disbarment, asking for the citation be dismissed or, alternatively, that she be fined rather than disbarred. (Guo already owes the society over $108,000 for costs related to her completed hearings.)

Guo off to China as society seeks to secure files

The society’s application to the court, if successful, will see the society take full custodianship of Guo law Corp., a once bustling practice specializing in real estate transactions and immigration-related business arrangements, such as the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program.

Guo’s practice has been under partial custodianship since Aug. 23, 2016; that's when Guo claimed her bookkeeper stole $7.5 million from her trust account using blank cheques she signed and left unsupervised in their possession, prompting a one-year suspension (Guo’s final hearing is for allegedly practicing law while suspended).

Since then the society noted in its application that three judges have ordered custodianship of various trust accounts at Guo Law Corp.

At present, there are 170 files to deal with, the society noted.

The application states the practice has a locum agreement with Richmond lawyer Tadhg Egan, who told the society he’s had limited recent dealings with Guo.

“He believes that she has relocated to China with no immediate intention to return to British Columbia,” the society stated.

Egan confirmed to Glacier Media that Guo left Canada last September for personal reasons. Egan clarified that he does not know what her plans are. Glacier Media could not reach Guo by phone.

The society noted in its application that it has not had "recent communication with Ms. Guo."

At issue is the fact Egan is subleasing part of Guo's office space but intends to leave at the end of the month, leaving no one to attend to the documents.

Egan had worked for Guo as a legal assistant from 2012 to 2014 and once described Guo’s practice to a society tribunal as very busy and with a waiting room often packed with clients, 99 per cent of whom spoke Mandarin.

Guo advertised herself as a former legal specialist for the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the executive branch of the National People’s Congress run by the Chinese Communist Party. No stranger to publicity, Guo ran for mayor in Richmond, in 2018, and has been keen to share her political engagements online.

In one misconduct case against her, Guo claimed the society was prejudice against female Asian lawyers. And Guo claimed her suspension would have a harmful impact on the Mandarin-speaking community. A tribunal dismissed Guo’s claim as one without evidence and merit.

Guo has claimed, in an online statement last December, the society “publicly accused me of theft and treated me like a criminal” and that Canadian police did not assist her in investigating the theft allegations; thereafter she stated she successfully endeavoured to investigate and prosecute the bookkeeper and accomplice in a Chinese court.

Guo’s online statement links to a translated appeal court decision in Guongdong province indicating the bookkeeper and accomplice were sentenced to 13 years and 15 years in prison, respectively.

Guo was principal of Guo Law Corp. and had a satellite office in Beijing. She was called to the bar in 1999 in Ontario and moved to Saskatchewan in 2000 where she practiced with a Saskatchewan firm until moving to B.C. in 2005.

Disbarred in Saskatchewan; sentencing hearing upcoming

The Law Society of Saskatchewan has also disbarred Guo and on March 1 released its reasons, noting Guo failed to immediately report her original disbarment to the organization.

Guo faces the prospect of up to 40 days in jail for contempt of court, with a sentencing hearing date ordered for May 21, according to court filings.

Supreme Court of B.C. Justice Gary P. Weatherill found Guo in contempt of court on Oct. 14, 2022 for repeatedly failing to produce court-ordered documents in a civil proceeding against her and her firm.

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