Missing former deputy minister suspended by law society

25/11/2018 Posted by admin

A New Brunswick lawyer- who once served as the deputy minister of justice – has been suspended by the  Law Society of New Brunswick  and now the society is looking into what happened to thousands of dollars in trust fund accounts for his clients.

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In court documents filed by the law society to the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench, Yassin Choukri’s associate William Stephenson said he was alerted to the situation by Choukri’s wife, who said she was concerned about her husband’s health and safety.

That lead to the discovery of  cheques in client trust fund accounts for more than $50,000 that were deemed “item dishonoured”, meaning they were refused by the bank.

The law society acted quickly to appoint his associate William Stephenson as custodian.

Law Society of New Brunswick Deputy Executive Director and Registrar Shirley Maclean says Stephenson contacted the organization last week, and indicated that Choukri could not be found.

“Under our legislation, if a lawyer abandons their practice, or becomes incapacitated or is suspended or something of that nature, then we have to appoint a custodian under our legislation so our client files and our clients are protected,” Maclean said.

Maclean says Stephenson alerted the law society  to concerns that money was missing from a client’s trust account. The society then moved on Oct. 11 to suspend Choukri until the matter could be heard by the disciplinary committee.

While Choukri and Stephenson shared an office, Maclean says they were associates, not partners.

“The law society also has a compensation fund that will compensate clients if there’s been fraud or dishonesty on the part of the member, but again, we’re not at that point yet,” Maclean said.

An affidavit filed with the court states Choukri’s wife transferred large sums of money to him from her line of credit.  Court  documents also show a number of credit card payments made to a casino.

In an email to Global News, Stephenson says he will be taking instructions from the Law Society and says he won’t speak publicly about this “unfortunate turn of events.”

Fredericton Police Force spokesperson Alycia Bartlett says there was initially a missing persons report filed about a month ago, but she says that’s no longer the case. Bartlett says there’s currently no criminal investigation underway.

Choukri was first admitted to the Law Society in 1992.