Former deputy minister of justice Yassin Choukri, who is accused of theft or "misappropriation" of more than $740,000 from clients dating back to 2010, will face a disciplinary hearing next month.
The Law Society of New Brunswick announced Monday a panel of the discipline committee will hold a hearing in Fredericton on Oct. 30.
Choukri, who has been suspended since January and disappeared more than a year ago, has been deemed to have admitted all of the professional charges against him because he did not file a response within 20 days of the notice of complaint filed by the law society in July, said executive director Marc Richard.
But Choukri could still show up at the hearing and try to fight the charges, said Richard.
"It has not happened in the past that somebody does not file a reply and shows up at the last minute, but there's a first time for everything," he said.
"It [would] be up to the discipline committee to decide whether they accept his version and whether we go for the full hearing or not."
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Both Chourki and the Law Society of New Brunswick are entitled to call witnesses and present evidence at the hearing, the notice states.
If Choukri fails to appear, the committee is authorized under the Law Society Act to proceed against him without further notice, as if he were present.
The panel could decide to proceed straight to the sanction part of the hearing, said Richard.
Possible sanctions range from a reprimand to a fine of up to $25,000, suspension or disbarment, he said.
Choukri, once one the most senior legal officials in the New Brunswick government, "abandoned his clients" and Fredericton law practice in September 2016 — two days after bouncing a pair of cheques to people he was representing in a mortgage foreclosure, the law society disclosed in July.
He is facing a number of professional offences involving $742,795.88 in payments from 10 clients between 2010 and 2016, according to a six-page "notice of complaint."
The complaint does not mention anything about accusations Choukri had a gambling problem, but in an affidavit filed in court last year, Shirley, MacLean, registrar of complaints for the law society, said one of his colleagues at the firm where he practised told her that was an issue.
"Mr. [William] Stephenson also informed me that Yassin Choukri regularly gambles and that Yassin Choukri informed him that he receives complimentary rooms and meals at Casino Moncton," the affidavit said.
In May, the law society announced that every practising lawyer in New Brunswick may have to pay up to $400 each to reimburse Choukri's clients.
The disciplinary hearing is scheduled to be held at the law society's office at 68 Avonlea Ct. on Oct. 30 at 10 a.m.
The panel will consist of three to five members, including lawyers and public representatives.