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In the Courts: Judge dismisses ‘draconian’ effort to toss $18M lawsuit against B.C. law firm

Online gambling companies, Vancouver law firm will still have to face off in court
The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

A Vancouver law firm has come up snake eyes in its effort to quash an $18-million lawsuit filed by two international online gambling companies.

Beadle Raven LLP and founder R. James Beadle’s arguments for tossing the case against them centred on pre-trial disclosure issues.

Despite that particular loss, the West Coast litigants were able to force the gaming companies to put forward an individual sought for pre-trial examination.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2019 by Jazette Enterprises Ltd. and Go Forward Solutions Ltd., companies based out of the island nations of Mauritius, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The companies operate an online gambling website.

The lawsuit claims $18 million in funds generated by the website were stolen in 2016 “by certain rogues involved with the enterprise” and were funnelled through a trust account operated by Beadle Raven, according to a January decision by Justice Briana Hardwick.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

The matter is also the subject of litigation in Qatar, according to Hardwick.

While Beadle and his law firm deny any liability “on various grounds,” Hardwick noted, without making any findings of fact, “it is clear on the face of the evidence in the application before me that some C$18 million did indeed pass through the trust account operated by the Beadle defendants.”

Luis Pablo Laplana‑Moraz was reportedly hired by the plaintiffs as a contractor to trace the missing funds. In an affidavit, he claimed the owners and directors of Jazette are Charlotte Payne, Keith Helman and Steven Choi.

Payne was set to undergo discovery examination – a pre-trial process for parties in a civil dispute to obtain information from the opposing side – in October last year.

She ultimately refused.

Payne originally cited a back ailment before submitting an affidavit denying she was a director or employee of the companies, and that her back condition required surgery.

She also declined an offer for the Beadle defendants to come to her in London, England. Helman declined a subsequent demand that he attend discovery instead.

Instead, the plaintiffs said Laplana-Moraz was the appropriate person to represent the plaintiffs for discovery.

The refusal led to an application by the Beadle defendants to have the case thrown out entirely for non-compliance.

However, Hardwick declined to approve that measure, calling it “particularly draconian remedy” given the plaintiffs put forward an alternative to Payne and Helman and thus weren’t refusing discovery entirely.

And she noted the gravity of the $18-million claim.

“In the circumstances, I am satisfied this is not just a trifling or nuisance claim. It is instead a serious claim, which ought to be determined on its merits on the basis of a full and proper evidentiary record,” she said.

She ordered Payne to attend a discovery hearing, noting that the Beadle defendants have read her affidavit, in which she claims to have little relevant knowledge and are still insisting on interviewing her for discovery.

“It may be that the Beadle defendants are thus making an improvident decision to utilize their right of discovery of a representative who will not be of assistance in obtaining the information and/or admissions which assist in advancing their defences to the claims of the plaintiffs,” Hardwick wrote.

“However, it is not for this court to question the litigation strategy of the Beadle defendants.”

As for Payne’s back issues, Hardwick said she would need to be accommodated but could not skip discovery entirely for that reason.