Calgary judge stays charges against man accused in multimillion-dollar investment fraud

Josef Korec, accused in a multi-million dollar fraud, had his charges stayed in a Calgary court Tuesday due to an 'unreasonable' delay in getting the case to trial. (Google Maps - image credit)
Josef Korec, accused in a multi-million dollar fraud, had his charges stayed in a Calgary court Tuesday due to an 'unreasonable' delay in getting the case to trial. (Google Maps - image credit)

Charges against one of two Calgary men accused in a multimillion-dollar investment fraud were stayed Tuesday, just days before his fourth scheduled trial was set to begin.

Josef Korec was supposed to go on trial next Monday on charges of fraud over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime and money laundering.

Korec made what's known as a Jordan application, where he asked a judge to dismiss his charges because of the "unreasonable" length of time it's taken to get the case to trial.

On Tuesday morning, Justice Catherine Skene issued a judicial stay based on unreasonable delay in getting the case to trial.

The Supreme Court says cases in provincial court must be wrapped up within 18 months. In this case, by the time the trial was scheduled to end, it would be four years from the time Korec was charged.

Some of that delay was blamed on the defence, but Skene ruled the Crown was responsible for a nine-month period in dispute.

Korec was charged alongside Dustin Ritter, who also made a Jordan application but Skene dismissed his application.

Ritter will now go on trial on June 17.

2-year investigation

The two men were charged following a two-year investigation by Lethbridge police that began in 2018.

Investigators looked into an investment fraud that took place in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.

The victim, a Lethbridge man, had tried to secure $25 million in capital to build a major project in Ontario.

Okotoks brokering firm Taurus Capital and a Calgary investment company, RAEU Global, agreed to fund the project but asked the victim to put up $3.1 million as a down payment, according to police.

Korec returned from Czech Republic

The victim raised the money by securing funding from several of his own investors.

The down payment was eventually made, but the loan was never fulfilled.

Investigators determined the money was transferred to bank accounts belonging to RAEU associates, including several accounts in the Czech Republic, Lethbridge police said in a release in July 2020.

In September 2020, two months after warrants for his arrest were issued, Korec was taken into police custody after returning from the Czech Republic.

'One crucial period'

Skene's decision came down to whether Korec was responsible for a nine-month period of delay.

"Proof of whether Korec waived delay during one crucial period is the issue in this application," wrote Skene in her 12-page decision.

Over the years, four different trial dates were set for the two men.

The first trial was set for July 2022, but Ritter asked for it to be rescheduled because his spouse was about to have a baby.

In an email exchange three months before the trial, Korec told the Crown he consented to it being rescheduled.

"I suggest you meet with Mr. Ritter and or his counsel without me to discuss," wrote Korec. "I have no objection with the trial being adjourned until Mr. Ritter can participate."

'Waiving your right'

The Crown then asked Korec if he would waive delay, meaning it wouldn't count in any calculations about what's considered an unreasonable timeline.

"The court will want to confirm you are waiving your right to a trial in a reasonable period of time," wrote the prosecutor.

Korec replied: "Yes, it is OK. Yes, I am confirming it. Once the time frame set, please let me know as new time was given."

The next day, the Crown appeared in court and indicated Korec had consented by email to the adjournment and waived his right to be tried in a reasonable time.

The trial was adjourned.

Two more trials cancelled

Twice more, at the request of the defence, Korec and Ritter's trial was cancelled and new dates were booked.

And again, the defence agreed to shoulder the blame for the delay.

At issue in Korec's application, wrote Skene, is whether the Crown proved Korec waived delay between July 29, 2022 (the last day of the first scheduled trial) and April 28, 2023 (the last day of the second trial).

Prosecutors argued Korec's email proved he took responsibility for that delay.

But Korec submitted that he did not fully understand his Charter rights or the effect and consequences of the term "waiver." He also asked the judge to consider that English is not his first language.

In the end, Skene sided with defence, finding Korec's words did not constitute a "valid waiver."

"I find that it has not been proven that Korec's agreement or own motivation of an adjournment of his trial amounted to an explicit or implicit waiver that was informed and knowledgeable of his … rights, notwithstanding the language he used," wrote the judge.

"Korec's statements … was not confirmed as clear, unequivocal and fully informed … by Korec on the record with the court."