Rashida Samji, 'magic lady', seeks stay of Ponzi scheme fraud charges
Former notary public claims criminal trial would be double jeopardy after regulation discipline
A former Vancouver notary accused of running a $110-million Ponzi scheme claims criminal charges against her would amount to double jeopardy because she has already been disciplined by B.C.'s securities regulator.
According to one of her lawyers, Rashida Samji will apply for a stay of proceedings at a provincial court hearing in February.
She claims the case would violate her constitutional right not to be tried twice for the same offence.
"The position that we're taking is that Ms. Samji has already been tried and punished," said lawyer Mila Shah.
Fined $33 million
Samji was fined $33 million by the BC Securities Commission (BCSC) last January for defrauding more than 200 victims in a decade-long Ponzi scheme. She was also permanently banned from B.C.'s capital markets.
Meanwhile, the Crown charged her with 28 counts of fraud and theft in 2013 in relation to 14 of her investors.
Section 11(h) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right of any person "if finally found guilty and punished for (an) offence, not to be tried or punished for it again."
Shah said Samji will also argue that the criminal prosecution is an abuse of process in violation of Section 7 of the charter.
Though rare, double jeopardy arguments have arisen before the courts in previous white collar crime cases in Canada.
In 2009, Norbourg Asset Management founder Vincent Lacroix tried to have criminal charges against him stayed in relation to a $100-million fraud. He argued that his conviction on securities violations concerned the same offence.
The Quebec judge rejected his application finding that the province's securities legislation doesn't carry the same weight as the criminal code.
Vincent Lacroix later pleaded guilty to 200 fraud charges and received a 13-year prison sentence.
BCSC says fine unpaid
According to documents put before the BCSC, Samji's investors believed their funds would remain in trust in Canada, used as collateral to provide "letters of comfort" for a winery that was expanding into South America and South Africa.
The commission said she was known as the "magic lady" because of how quickly investors saw profits.
As part of the BCSC decision, Samji was also ordered to pay the commission $10.8 million, the difference between funds deposited by investors and money paid out.
The BCSC said Samji has not paid anything towards the sanctions against her. She has declared bankruptcy, though the commission said her trustee in bankruptcy has recovered more than $1.8 million from property frozen by the BCSC.
The Coast Capital customers have reached settlements with a number of banks, including the credit union. Other investors settled a B.C. Supreme Court class action lawsuit.
Just this week, the trustee received an order to disperse $1 million recovered from winners in the Ponzi scheme.
About 90 of Samji's investors came to her through a financial planner at the credit union Coast Capital Savings, Arvindbhai Bakorbhai Patel. He was charged with 32 counts of Securities Act violations in connection with the scheme last year.
In 2012, Patel reached a settlement agreement with the BCSC, receiving a permanent market ban and signing away his interest in five properties.