Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rashida Samji seeks stay of Ponzi scheme fraud charges

Rashida Samji
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.

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. The BCSC 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.

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.

Ponzi aka "Charles Bianchi" under arrest circa 1910
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.

Bernard Madoff is serving a decades-long sentence in federal prison.