Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lawyer's actions in fraud probed

Women lost their property in India

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A Winnipeg lawyer who played a key role in a scheme to defraud a widow and her two adult children is being investigated by the Law Society of Manitoba.

In 2009, lawyer Rajan Sharma prepared power of attorney documents on behalf of three Indian immigrants -- Jaspal Grewal and her daughters Harjinder and Sukhwinder -- that were then used to transfer the women's ownership in properties in India to Sukhwinder's now-estranged husband, former local taxi driver Kuldeep Brar.

Jaspal Grewal and Harjinder Grewal filed a complaint with the law society, saying Sharma failed to advise them what they were signing and that resulted in them losing their property, valued at about $170,000.

The law society put its investigation of Sharma on hold when the Grewals sued Brar. Sharma was his key witness against the three women's allegations.

The law society has reopened its investigation after a Queen's Bench justice this summer invalidated the power of attorney documents, finding Sharma had not given the women proper legal advice and they didn't know what they were signing.

Sharma declined to comment about the law society complaint, the recent court case and the judge's conclusion he lacked credibility.

Jaspal and Harjinder Grewal sued Brar over the matter earlier this year, saying they understood and spoke little English, were unaware what they were signing and had no intention of giving up their property.

They asked the court to invalidate the power of attorney documents and impose punitive costs on Brar.

At the trial, Sharma testified the three women had approached him about wanting to sell their land and asked him to prepare the power of attorney documents, giving Brar's brother-in-law in India, Balwinder Singh Mann, the power to dispose of the property.

Sharma testified Jaspal, her daughters and two witnesses -- Sharma's wife and Brar's niece -- met at his Maples law office on Feb. 4, 2009, and signed the documents, after he explained them in Punjabi.

Brar testified when he was in India in June 2009, his wife and in-laws phoned his brother-in-law, Mann, and instructed him to transfer ownership of their property to Brar as repayment of a debt they owed him.

The Grewals denied they owed money to Brar and said he forced them to sign documents he explained involved another legal dispute. They said they never went to Sharma's office.

In a recent written decision, Justice Shane Perlmutter said he found Sharma's testimony unreliable and the women couldn't have been at his office at the same time -- they were working across town at different times and could not have been together.

Perlmutter said the testimony of the witnesses to the signing -- Sharma's wife and Brar's niece -- was also unreliable.

Perlmutter concluded the women didn't know what they were signing and invalidated the power of attorney documents.

"Mr. Brar's conduct gives rise to the independent actionable wrongs of fraud and misrepresentation," he said.

Perlmutter ordered Brar to pay his in-laws $30,000 in punitive damages.

The Grewal women have launched a separate legal action in India to invalidate the property transfer. Manjit Grewal, Jaspal's son, said Perlmutter's ruling has been forwarded to the Indian court, and his mother and sister are waiting for the outcome of that trial.

The law society said the complaint brought against Sharma by the Grewal women is still being investigated.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 0

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