In a case that reads like a mystery novel and leaves a number of key questions unanswered, a court has found a Toronto lawyer and two co-accused guilty in a nearly $2-million fraud of the Royal Bank of Canada to purchase unique gold bars.
Where those bars are now remains a mystery, but Ontario Superior Court Justice Alfred O’Marra ruled Sept. 8 that Remy Boghossian, a corporate-commercial lawyer and sole practitioner at Boghossian Legal PC on Don Mills Rd., along with Raffi Ebrekdjian, and Siva Suthakaran were guilty of defrauding the bank of an amount in excess of $5,000. He further found Boghossian and Ebrekdjian guilty of possessing gold bars knowing the property was obtained by the commission of an indictable offence. The court has tentatively scheduled sentencing for Dec. 4, but Boghossian is preparing to appeal.
“Mr. Boghossian is obviously very disappointed in the result and intends to pursue an appeal,” says Boghossian’s defence lawyer, Greg Lafontaine.
“We will be appealing subsequent to that [sentencing],” says Boghossian’s appellate lawyer, Kirkor Apel.
He says they will appeal based on the argument that Boghossian was as much a victim as the bank and his co-accused had duped him into depositing a fake bank draft into his firm’s accounts to purchase the gold for a supposed client the court determined was created to further the fraud.
The judge, however, found otherwise. “I do not accept Remy Boghossian’s evidence that he was a dupe manipulated by Ebrekdjian and others,” wrote O’Marra in R. v. Boghossian on Sept. 8.
“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Remy Boghossian was a knowing participant in the presentation of the fraudulent bank draft to the Royal Bank of Canada on February 10, 2011 and subsequently possessed gold knowing it had been obtained by a criminal offence.”
In a case that had an unknown bank insider helping out, a fake client allegedly created in part by Boghossian, and each of the accused blaming each other, O’Marra said the evidence pointed to Ebrekdjian as the “central coordinator in the scheme.”
O’Marra found that in early to mid-February 2011, Suthakaran and Boghossian acquired a forged TD Canada Trust bank draft through an unknown insider at a Mississauga, Ont., branch for $1,895,751 with the funds deposited into Boghossian’s trust account at the Royal Bank of Canada on Don Mills Road in North York. Boghossian then directed those funds to make two separate transactions, one day apart, for the equivalent amount of Australian-minted gold bullion from Montreal’s Kitco Metals Co.
He made those purchases on behalf of a client named Omar Ali, a man the court determined Boghossian and Ebrekdjian had created in order to further the fraud. Lafontaine argued it was Ali — or Ebrekdjian who created Ali alone — who was the main perpetrator, secured the fake TD bank note, and duped Boghossian into making the purchases. Boghossian told the court Ali was a real estate developer and investor going through a divorce and a pending property transaction and wanted the lawyer to invest the almost $2 million in gold so the client could keep it hidden from his wife.
“Mr. Boghossian believed Mr. Ali was a real person and a bona fide client,” said Lafontaine in his closing arguments, which Apel said he would expand on for the appeal.
“While other participants, some of whom have never been named or found, hid behind phones and used other people as tools, only Mr. Boghossian used his own bank account, information, and name.”
Police found photocopies of fake identification for Ali, and while Ebrekdjian, a currency and precious metals dealer, purchased two phones under Ali’s name, the court determined “no such person existed” and all of the lawyer’s files on Ali as a client “were forgeries.” The Crown argued it was Suthakaran, a former Toronto-area mortgage broker, who was the “handler” for the TD insider, organized the fake bank draft for Boghossian, and participated in the sale of at least some of the gold before the bank noticed the fraudulent transaction on Feb. 11, 2011.
Suthakaran and Ebrekdjian both attempted to sell some of the gold after Feb. 11 of that year through a third party to local gold dealers who recognized the distinct kangaroo markings of the Perth-made bars and contacted police.
“In my view, there is a strong circumstantial case as outlined above from which reasonable inferences can be drawn that all three of the accused acted together to knowingly defraud the RBC by the presentation of a fraudulent TD bank draft,” wrote O’Marra, adding phone records at the time of the crime indicated Ebrekdjian’s level of involvement. “While another person made use of the ABC/Ali phone when Ebrekdjian was in Montreal, the brief overlapping calls to Boghossian and Suthakaran when Boghossian was in the bank suggest he was using his and the ABC/Ali phones at the same time as the central coordinator in the scheme,” wrote O’Marra.
Criminal defence lawyer Marcy Segal says Boghossian, guilty or not, will likely face questions from the Law Society of Upper Canada. “Even if you were a dupe, this type of fraud goes to the very heart of the legal profession,” she says.
“One of the problems for Boghossian right off the start with the society is that he says he was acting on behalf of a client who wanted to purchase gold to hide it from his wife. That’s not good in itself,” she adds.
“But what was very damaging, I think, was his varied descriptions [of Ali]. Precision is something lawyers need to have, so why was he so inconsistent in his descriptions?”
Authorities have recovered none of the approximately 75 gold bars, and Det. Ruth Moran of the Toronto police financial crimes unit says they remain missing.
“I suspect at one point they [the accused] knew where it all was. I don’t know if they do now, but it’s gone,” she says of the gold, adding police have closed the investigation into where it ended up as well as the probe to find the insider at the TD Bank.
Apel says he and his client won’t comment further before the appeal but he notes the location of the gold is just as much a mystery to them as to the court.
“Nobody knows where it ended up. Maybe somebody knows, but my client does not,” he says.