$44.6 million moved through attorneys’ accounts without scrutiny, says BC Bar Association

Paul Otto De Lange processed transactions for an individual accused of fraud but failed to conduct due diligence on multiple fronts

The Law Society of BC has suspended Vancouver business and real estate attorney Paul Otto De Lange for 15 years for “professional misconduct,” including transferring over $44 million through an escrow account without keeping proper records.

In a December 15 press release, the company stated that De Lange had reached a settlement over escrow breaches. The company said De Lange “did not misappropriate customer trust funds or engaged in dishonest conduct.”

Following a subpoena dated March 3, 2021, the suspension was approved by a hearing panel at De Lange’s suggestion, with an admission of professional misconduct and a suspension noted in his professional conduct record.

De Lange was appointed and accepted as a member of the Society on August 6, 2009. He worked at Sikander Vikram Law Corporation before founding his own practice in September 2013.

According to the admitted facts, between August 2015 and July 2018, De Lange received $44.6 million into his firm’s pooled escrow account, but “kept no ledger or data source showing the source of the funds received.”

De Lange “used or permitted the use of his escrow account to receive $21,781,206.82 and pay out $1,640,716.93 if he failed” to investigate the nature of transactions on multiple fronts, including the legal or beneficial ownership of property and business entities; nature and purpose of transactions; the business relationships between parties and agents or intermediaries; and the source of the funds received.

De Lange was also found to have been handling funds from a would-be scammer, identified as TG, who was improperly screened by De Lange under the Settlement Agreement.

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The client’s suspicious transactions “often involved many rounds of financing and refinancing, often with short maturities.”

De Lange “was not on guard, but does not admit that he was actually used as a tool or con man by an unscrupulous customer or other person,” the agreement reads.

In addition, De Lang admitted to various instances of professional misconduct, including conflicts of interest, lack of trust, and failure to remedy and report lack of trust.

Lawyers like De Lange rule and regulate themselves over society. Escrow accounts are not part of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC) reporting system for suspicious transactions because it would violate attorney-client confidentiality, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2015.

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