Ex-deputy justice minister 'missing,' suspended by law society

A former deputy justice minister has been suspended from practising law by the New Brunswick Law Society after being declared to have abandoned his Fredericton law practice with potentially tens of thousands of dollars missing from his trust account for clients.

Yassin Choukri's law practice deemed abandoned with questions surrounding state of trust account

A former deputy justice minister has been suspended from practising law by the New Brunswick Law Society after being declared to have abandoned his Fredericton law practice with potentially tens of thousands of dollars possibly missing from his trust account for clients.

Yassin Choukri's interim suspension notice was posted on the law society's web site on Thursday.

The suspension comes after the law society filed a notice of application in the Court of Queen's Bench on Oct. 7 to appoint William G. Stephenson as custodian of Choukri's law practice given that Choukri had abandoned his practice. Justice Paulette Garnett granted the order.

In affidavits filed in support of the order by Stephenson, Shirley MacLean of the law society and Choukri's wife, Nadine LeBlanc Choukri, it is stated Choukri is missing and Fredericton police and RCMP have been unable to locate him.

Stephenson said various sources have told him Choukri is in Missisauga, Ont., but he does not know his precise location.

Concerned about health

Stephenson stated in court documents he was contacted by Nadine LeBlanc Choukri on Sept. 29 and told Yassin Choukri had left her a note and she was concerned about his health and safety and was unable to locate him.

The court documents also show Nadine LeBlanc Choukri borrowed $55,000 from her personal line of credit on Sept. 6 and her husband deposited that amount into his trust fund for legal clients.

Yassin Choukri then asked his wife for another payment from her line of credit and on Sept. 28 she deposited $58,221.29 into her husband's trust account, court documents state.

Nadine LeBlanc Choukri told Stephenson on Sept. 26 that Choukri's accounts had been frozen by Canada Revenue Agency.

The documents also show a cheque for $44,440.58 written on the trust account to clients of Choukri on Sept. 27 was returned to the clients by their bank as an "item dishonoured."

Stephenson states in his affidavit Yassin Choukri operates his own trust account and is its sole signing officer.

Stephenson said he does not have a password to access Choukri's trust account information on his computer and all his efforts to obtain it have been unsuccessful.

'Choukri regularly gambles'

In her affidavit, law society deputy executive director Shirley MacLean states: "Mr. 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."

Information in the affidavits and other court documents has not been proven in a court of law.

Yassin Choukri was once a law partner of former premier Bernard Lord and served as the chief of staff in Lord's office before being appointed deputy minister of justice in 2003.

Choukri left the government position after Lord's Progressive Conservatives lost the 2006 election.

In 2010, the Progressive Conservative government of David Alward appointed Choukri as the public intervenor for hearings before the Energy and Utilities Board.