Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



Canadian Lawyer Receives Harsh Sentence for Money Laundering

Trade Lawyers Blog feels it is important to share with readers around the world the case of a Canadian lawyer who engaged in money laundering.  The Ontario Court of Appeal increased the sentence handed down and wrote a decision that all lawyers should consider.

On April 15, 2009, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued its decision in R. v. Rosenfeld in which sentenced Simon Rosenfeld, 63, to five years in prison for money laundering instead of the three he received at trial, citing his status as a lawyer as a "significant aggravating factor" worthy of harsher punishment.  Minster Justice Doherty wrote:

"Those privileged to practise law take on a public trust in exchange for that privilege and the many advantages that come with it..."

He went on to state:

"He was ready and willing to abuse these specific privileges available to him because of his status as a lawyer to enhance his money-laundering services. [Rosenfeld's] willingness to prostitute his legal services and abuse the special privileges associated with them are significant aggravating features of his conduct."

He further stated:

"Lawyers are duty-bound to protect the administration of justice and enhance its reputation within their community. Criminal activity by lawyers in the course of performing functions associated with the practice of law in its broadest sense, has exactly the opposite effect," ...

"Lawyers like [Rosenfeld] who choose to use their skills and abuse the privileges attached to service in the law not only discredit the vast majority of the profession, but also feed public cynicism of the profession. "In the long run, that cynicism must undermine public confidence in the justice system."

The facts are that Mr. Rosenfeld laundered money for clients using his status as a lawyer as his protection from scrutiny - or so he thought.  Rosenfeld had made the unhelpful suggestion that it was "20 times safer" for a lawyer to launder money in Canada than in the United States and that prison terms here are notably light. He made the remarks while he was counting a huge pile of cash, which he thought was drug money but was, in fact, part of an elaborate police sting.

If you would like to read a copy of the case, please go to the following link - http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/decisions/2009/april/2009ONCA0307.pdf

I have been asked why lawyers should be exempted from Canada's reporting requirements relating to suspicious transactions and why lawyers should not have their laptops searched at the border.  My answer is that lawyers owe a duty of loyalty to their clients and the rule to keep a client's information in confidence is a cornerstone principle in the legal profession.  I stand by these comments.

However, I also believe that lawyers should never use these protections to engage in illegal activities.  The words used by Mister Justice Doherty in this case ring true in the context of money laundering and beyond.

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