Money Laundering

There is an interesting decision reported in the most recent edition of the Ontario Reports, a weekly journal with important decisions from Ontario Courts. The case involved a conviction for money laundering by a lawyer and an appeal of the conviction and three year sentence. The lawyer, Simon Rosenfeld, was caught red handed when he agreed to launder funds for what he thought was a Columbian drug cartel. In fact, his contact was an RCMP agent posing as a front man for the organization. Lured by the prospect of enormous financial returns, Rosenfeld could be heard on intercepted communications bragging about his ability to launder large amounts of dirty money.

The Court of Appeal had no difficulty dismissing Rosenfeld’s appeal of the conviction. The interesting comments related to his status as a lawyer on the sentence appeal brought by the Crown.

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

Lawyers, for arguably valid reasons, are exempt from the reporting conditions applicable to other professions and financial institutions who deal in cash transactions. The communications between lawyers and their clients, also for valid reasons, are protected from disclosure by the client/solicitor privilege. This privilege attaches uniquely to lawyers and their clients. The wiretap interceptions and Majcher’s evidence demonstrate that the appellant appreciated the advantage to a money laundering operation of both the solicitor’s exemption from the reporting conditions and the client/solicitor privilege. 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. The appellant’s willingness to prostitute his legal services and abuse the special privileges associated with them are significant aggravating features of his conduct.

Needless to say, the Court of Appeal did not look kindly on these circumstances. In delivering this important message, the Court increased the sentenced from three to five years.