Nova Scotia RCMP have been investigating the financial collapse of a Port Hawkesbury law firm for nearly two years, following the allegation that a partner at Boudrot Rodgers had stolen tens of thousands of dollars from client trust funds.
Jason Boudrot, a former president of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, did not admit to wrongdoing, but last year he accepted disbarment from the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, the agency that regulates lawyers in the province.
RCMP Sgt. Andrew Joyce said Wednesday police received a complaint about Boudrot Rodgers on Nov. 20, 2018, about a month after Boudrot's partner, Adam Rodgers, said he first became aware of financial irregularities.
The barristers' society has accused Rodgers of professional misconduct and professional incompetence, saying he should have been aware of Boudrot's activities long before the fall of 2018. The society conducted a two-day disciplinary hearing on the charges against Rodgers earlier this week.
In his submission to the panel hearing the complaints, Rodgers questioned why he was the subject of discipline and why Boudrot has not been charged criminally.
Joyce said financial crime investigations are more complicated than normal police files and this one has been further complicated by the fact it involves a law firm and the issue of solicitor-client privilege.
"We just can't walk down to the bank and say, 'Hey, can I have the financial records on such and such person?'" Joyce said. "If we do do that, then the evidence would be spoiled in the court and would be inadmissible."
Joyce said police have been using production orders to gather evidence and agencies that receive these orders have up to 90 days to respond. Joyce said those timelines have been stretched by COVID-19.
He said another complication is that there about 100 witnesses from across North America who need to be tracked down and questioned.
As part of its investigation, the barristers' society commissioned a forensic audit by the accounting firm Grant Thornton. In his arguments before the society panel, Rodgers questioned why that audit hadn't simply been handed to police to facilitate charges against his former law partner.
"On the surface, somebody might say, 'Oh well, here's the audit report and all the evidence is in the audit of what happened here you can just, essentially slap a cover page on that and present that to the court and the court will find the person guilty or not guilty,'" Joyce said.
But the Mountie said it's more complicated than that because all the evidence in the audit report has to be verified to be presented in court.
Joyce wouldn't speculate on when the commercial crime investigation might be completed.
The disciplinary panel hopes to have a decision on Rodgers' case by the end of November.
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