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Arrest warrant issued for disbarred B.C. lawyer Hong Guo

Warrant for disbarred lawyer

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gordon Weatherill has issued an arrest warrant for disbarred B.C. lawyer Hong Guo after she failed to show up for her contempt of court sentencing hearing.

Guo has not complied with two court orders — issued in April 2021 and May 2022 — to produce financial documents related to a real estate transaction she participated in. That deal led to a civil claim against her in which she was found liable in 2019.

Weatherill found Guo in contempt of court on Oct. 14, 2022 and issued an order for up to 40 days in prison. He temporarily stayed the order for Guo to purge the contempt.

“Ms. Guo’s steadfast defiance of this court’s orders struck at its very ability to enforce its process and thus the rule of law itself. The public interest in the administration of justice was implicated,” said Weatherill in summarizing the matter — a rare custodial prison term for contempt of court in a civil proceeding.

“Ms. Guo is not entitled to continue to hold the plaintiffs or this court hostage by her refusal to participate,” said Weatherill before issuing the warrant on Tuesday.

Guo did have representation in court — her son, Howard Chen, who told Weatherill his mother is in Beijing and suffering from mental health issues, including depression, sleep disorder and a “delusional state.”

Adjournment denied as Guo's whereabouts remain fuzzy

Chen first asked for a one-month adjournment before proceeding to the hearing. Weatherill pressed for more information.

“When did your mom travel to Beijing?” Weatherill asked Chen.

“I don’t recall, but before this year, 2023,” replied Chen, who said he was a student.

As to why Guo went to Beijing, Chen said “she had business opportunities there and she was desperate to provide financial resources — to earn them.”

Chen said he didn’t know whether Guo has ever returned to Canada since departing for Beijing, or whether she intends to in the future. 

“She’s your mother; one would think you should know,” said Weatherill, who went on to repeatedly express doubt as to Guo’s whereabouts.

“She is in Beijing? I’m not even satisfied she is. I’m assuming she is,” said Weatherill who was provided a copy of a Beijing doctor’s assessment of Guo, who is a University of Windsor law graduate and 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.

Weatherill then denied Chen's bid for an adjournment.

“I stayed that order in order to give her an opportunity. I am in no way satisfied, not even close, that your mother’s medical circumstances warrant an adjournment,” explained Weatherill.

Guo 'pops up' when she feels like it: lawyer

Chen appeared to be briefed on the contempt order. He later protested the application from the plaintiffs’ lawyer Glen Forrester, who first noted the repeated delays in producing the documents for his two property investor clients Kai Ming Yu and Qing Yan.

“Hong Guo has not even attempted to purge her contempt,” said Forrester.

“All Hong Guo has done is personally deny the existence of these documents,” added Forrester.

The lawyer for the investors also spoke to Guo's multiple hearings with the Law Society of B.C. that eventually resulted in her disbarment last November, following multiple findings of professional misconduct, including lying to society investigators.

Forrester noted Guo appeared on her own behalf (via video conference) at a society tribunal as recent as Feb. 8.

“Hong Guo pops up when she feels like it,” said Forrester.

Chen tried to argue the hearings with the society were irrelevant, but Forrester noted, with no objection from Weatherill, that the hearings spoke to Guo’s character.

Forrester alleged Guo mischaracterized the contempt proceedings to a society tribunal and the matter “is part of a terrible pattern that’s cost so many people so much money.”

He told Weatherill that since fall 2022 Guo has failed to search some of her hard drives and instructed a third party forensics company to restrict searches of others.

“Hong Guo has run out of chances and it’s necessary for the administration of justice that she be incarcerated,” said Forrester.

Forrester also told Weatherill his clients recently settled with co-defendants, but not Guo. He noted his clients have placed a lien on Guo’s commercial property in Richmond, B.C., which has been listed for sale at $7.8 million. (Guo’s law practice has been shuttered by the society.)

“There is a significant amount of money to assess on this application,” he said.

But without the necessary documents, Forrester said he has been unable to calculate a settlement.

Development deal had ‘irregularities’

Yu and Yan sued Guo over the real estate transaction, later seeking the contempt order in a court application in September 2022.

According to a court ruling, Yu and Yan entered into a $20 million joint venture with Zhongping Xu, Xiaohong Liu and their company Canada Sparkle Holdings Ltd.

Together Yu and Yan formed Vancouver Soho Holding Ltd. to buy a $37 million residential development project on Minoru Boulevard in Richmond, in 2013.

To get the deal done, Yu and Yan loaned Canada Sparkle $4 million by pledging their real estate in China as security for a loan from private lenders.

A re-sale of the land occurred in 2018, netting $28.8 million for all the parties. However, since Guo had represented all the parties, including herself, there was a dispute about how the money was to be divided, and $6.5 million remained in a trust account.

The matter was complicated by Guo after she set up a numbered company in her own name to accept shares of the venture on behalf of Yu and Yan, who had hired her to act as their lawyer.

However, as the lawsuit alleged, Guo also represented Canada Sparkle; so Yu and Yan sued for fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.

The plaintiffs hired a forensic accountant named Stephen Graff, who discovered “numerous discoveries of accounting irregularities, as well as potential claims and damages issues related to Ms. Guo.”

Guo has had multiple lawyers represent her. Chen said they have left her side and remain unpaid, to date, as has the electronic forensics company Guo had hired to conduct searches of her hard drives.

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