B.C. lawyer disbarred after improper real estate-related trust transaction

Misappropriated $1.5M

A Law Society of BC hearing panel has disbarred non-practicing lawyer Tejinder Singh Dhillon, who misappropriated $1.5 million from his client trust accounts while moonlighting in real estate development.

Among the “multiple instances of professional misconduct” carried out by Dhillon, the Surrey lawyer “enabled the unauthorized transfer from his trust account of one million dollars of a client’s money to a numbered company of which [Dhillon] was an officer and director,” in March 2015.

On another occasion, Dhillon “enabled an unauthorized payment of client funds to a relative involved in work on a townhouse project undertaken by the aforementioned numbered company.”

In other instances, Dhillon’s “deficient, reckless, and negligent supervision of his staff” included signing over blank trust cheques and making up trust shortfalls with other clients’ money.

He was also found to have acted in a conflict of interest when he allowed a corporation beneficially owned by his wife to lend his clients $50,000, the society noted in a Feb. 23 statement.

Additionally, Dhillon breached undertakings on commercial transactions and with the society, including a trust supervision agreement from November 2018.

All the monies misappropriated were returned, the panel noted.

“Wrongly taking a client’s money is the plainest form of betrayal of the client’s trust. In our view, the public is entitled to expect that the severity of the consequences reflect the gravity of the wrong,” the panel noted, in quoting a prior case.

In making the decision to disbar Dhillon, the hearing panel took into consideration the seriousness of the misconduct, his unwillingness to acknowledge responsibility for misuse of his trust account and his previous conduct record, which included a conduct review in 2017 for acting in an unprofessional and aggressive manner to staff at a mortgage company.

“Dhillon is also ordered to pay $31,501 in costs and disbursements,” the society stated.

At the time of Dhillon’s hearing in September 2022, he was already a non-practicing lawyer, having resigned from the society in June 2019.

Despite having resigned from the society, the society pursued disbarment in the public interest:

“The Law Society seeks an order disbarring [Dhillon] on the basis that, given the gravity of the professional misconduct, it is necessary to protect the public against risk, and maintain the public confidence in the lawyer disciplinary process.”

Lawyers' trust accounts are not subject to Canada’s reporting requirements under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act since a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2015 deemed solicitor-client privilege a constitutional right.

As such, lawyers regulate their own trust accounts and the society has claimed to be policing them more rigorously, particularly since B.C.’s money laundering inquiry.

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