Judge finds missing Toronto lawyer Javad Heydary in contempt of court
Drew Hasselback | 29/11/13 4:41 PM ET
An Ontario judge has ruled that missing Toronto lawyer Javad Heydary are in contempt for failing to comply with a court order that he immediately turn over $2.1-million in client funds
Glenn Lowson for National Post, files
An Ontario judge has ruled that missing Toronto lawyer Javad Heydary and his law firm Heydary Hamilton PC are in contempt for failing to comply with a court order that he immediately turn over $2.1-million in client funds that was supposed to be held in his trust account.
Madam Justice Julie Thorburn of the Ontario Superior Court made the ruling from the bench on Friday after hearing evidence from of two Mr. Heydary’s employees who detailed their efforts to locate Mr. Heydary to inform him of the court order.
“My order was clear,” the judge told court on Friday. Mr. Heydary, the only individual in his law firm who had signing authority over the trust account, had received notice of the order, she continued. Still, the lawyer showed “reckless disregard” for the significance of the order and had not complied with its contents, she ruled.
The Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates the legal profession in Ontario, seized control of Mr. Heydary’s law practice on Nov. 25 through an ex parte order signed by Justice Thorburn. Court documents show that his firm’s mixed trust account contains about $319,000, some $3-million less than it is supposed to.
The Law Society’s investigation followed a motion brought by Brampton, Ont. lawyer Ray Thapar on behalf of two former clients, Samira and Hasan Abuzour, who have been trying to collect a $3.6-million settlement Mr. Heydary obtained on their behalf last April.
Mr. Thapar obtained a court order from Justice Thorburn on Nov. 14 that required Mr. Heydary to pay $2.1-million immediately, and provide assurance that another $1.5-million is available in his firm’s trust account. Yet evidence heard in court suggests that Mr. Heydary left Canada around Nov. 15 to travel on business to Dubai, and then on to Iran to visit a sick uncle.
Mr. Thapar was in court Friday to ask that the judge rule Mr. Heydary to be in contempt. He documented in court the many efforts his firm has made to contact Mr. Heydary.
During the morning recess, his associate, Samantha Keser, called an Iranian telephone number Mr. Heydary had emailed his colleagues before they lost contact with him.
After the break, the lawyer took the stand to describe the call. The phone rang six times. A man answered speaking heavily accented English. He passed the phone to a woman. The associate asked if Javad was there. The woman responded by suggesting the caller contact Javad’s wife in Toronto, then the call ended.
But perhaps the strongest evidence that suggested Mr. Heydary knew about the court order came from a lawyer named Darren Smith, who worked as a contract employee of the firm. Mr. Smith gave evidence that he spoke with Mr. Heydary after the Nov. 14 order had been issued to discuss how the firm might pay. “Mr. Heydary said he would deal with the matter,” Mr. Smith recalled in court.
Margarita Park, a law clerk with the firm, had been in touch with Mr. Heydary oversees using his Gmail account. He provided her with the Iranian telephone number. She gave evidence that she tried to call the number at least six times between Nov. 18 and Nov. 20, sometimes receiving voice mail, sometimes not.
The case returns to court on Dec. 17 for sentencing. Mr. Thapar said outside court that he expects to ask for a substantial fine, jail time and some orders that would help him continue the process of obtaining some money for his clients.