Ex-husband forged documents to hide millions in B.C. divorce case

A woman who was earning just $900 a month working in a hotel laundry while her then-husband concealed a fortune has been awarded nearly $1.3 million in spousal support.

Judge awards $1.3 million to Amarjit Kaur Sangha, who came to Canada through an arranged marriage

Dalbir Singh Sangha's interests in two holding companies are currently worth an estimated $9.9 million. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

A woman who was earning just $900 a month working in a hotel laundry while her then-husband concealed a fortune has been awarded nearly $1.3 million in spousal support.

Quesnel, B.C., businessman Dalbir Singh Sangha is "an admitted forger and perjurer" who fraudulently hid millions of dollars in assets from his ex-wife, Amarjit Kaur Sangha, according to B.C. Supreme Court Justice Warren Milman.

"The fact of the matter is that Ms. Sangha has been deprived of her remedy for many years by virtue of Mr. Sangha's deceit. In my view, she is entitled to receive compensation forthwith, regardless of the tax implications or other inconvenience for Mr. Sangha," Milman wrote in a judgment Tuesday.

The judge's decision awarded Amarjit more than 35 times the modest $35,585 she had asked for when she reopened divorce proceedings in 2012 after learning of her ex's deception.

An arranged marriage

Amarjit had little more than the clothes on her back and some pieces of gold jewelry when she came to Canada in 1996 after an arranged marriage with Dalbir, according to court documents. She was 32 years old and had a 10th-grade education.

Quesnel's Tower Inn is one of the properties owned by a Sangha family holding company. (Google Maps)

While the couple lived in Quesnel, Amarjit worked in the laundry of the Tower Inn, a hotel owned by a holding company incorporated by her husband and his brothers. She testified that she occasionally worked there for free.

The couple was only married about four years. The marriage ended when Amarjit left for India with their young son and fell out of contact with her husband for several months, according to court documents.

Forged documents

After Dalbir filed for divorce with the intention of gaining custody of the boy, he prepared fraudulent documents claiming that his shares in two family holding companies were actually being held in trust for his brother, according to the judgment.

The lie allowed him to negotiate a consent order in 2006 that would see him paying Amarjit just $12,000 in spousal support before ending his obligations to her.

Calgary's Edinburgh House is also owned by the Sanghas. (Google Maps)

Today, Dalbir has admitted in court that his interest in the two holding companies is worth about $9.9 million. The assets include the Town Inn and an apartment building in Quesnel, as well as a mixed-use building in Calgary.

Dalbir's deceit was only uncovered after one of his brothers sued the rest of the family in 2005, and the Sangha finances were laid bare in open court. Dalbir signed an affidavit in 2007 admitting the trust documents were fraudulent, "created for an improper purpose, namely to protect my shares in the two companies from possible claims by my wife."

The evidence uncovered there meant that Amarjit was allowed to reopen the divorce proceedings.

"The misconduct in this case involved more than just an attempt to conceal assets, which is bad enough. It was a conspiracy to commit fraud, including uttering several forged documents, supplemented by repeated lies under oath calculated to sustain the deceit," Milman wrote.

Father retains custody

Dalbir has had sole custody of his son since 1999, when he somehow managed to sneak the boy out of India using a temporary passport, according to the judgment.

Meanwhile, Amarjit returned to Quesnel that same year and went from living in a homeless shelter to earning between $10,000 and $35,000 a year as a cleaner. She now lives in Calgary, where her son attends school.

The judge's decision this week doesn't alter the custody arrangement, but Milman wrote that Dalbir's deceit might have prevented Amarjit from meeting her full potential as a mother.

"It is possible that those outcomes would have been different if Mr. Sangha had allowed for the distribution of Ms. Sangha's share of the family's wealth when she was entitled to it," Milman wrote.

The judge's compensation order granted Amarjit 17 per cent of the value of one holding company and 12 per cent of the other, along with $5,000 in penalties. On top of that, Dalbir will have to pay her special costs in an amount that is yet to be determined.

The order requires immediate payment of $150,000, another $500,000 within six months and the rest within a year.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Reach me at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.