Allard Prize Winner: “Lawyers are servants in the architecture of corruption.”
Last week I had the honour and privilege of being an invited guest at the 2015 Allard Prize for International Integrity.
The $100,000 Allard Prize is one of the world’s largest prizes dedicated to the fight against corruption and protecting human rights. The prize is administered by the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, and is awarded every two years to a person, movement or organization that demonstrates exceptional courage and leadership in combating corruption, especially through promoting transparency, accountability and Rule of Law.
Over the two days of events, I spoke for a total of several hours with the 2015 finalists, various members of the Allard Prize Committee and Advisory Board, other invited guests and the keynote speaker, Lieutenant-General, the Honourable Roméo Dallaire.
To be honest, there were times when I felt a bit like a duck out of water, to be in the presence of so many leaders and esteemed persons from Canada and around the world. I was surprised to learn that several people I spoke with were already aware of my story in some detail. A few even sought me out and introduced themselves at the various events. They had heard about how Ontario lawyers fabricated evidence and lied to the courts to convict me of contempt of court in my absence from Canada during a rushed civil hearing that I was not made aware of.
It was also interesting to hear the anti-corruption community’s focus turning from the injustice of my conviction and incarceration to a wider concern about how Ontario’s legal profession covered up and whitewashed proven corruption and criminal acts by lawyers from some of Canada’s largest and most respected law firms.
As one person commented to me,
“How could the Law Society of Upper Canada not look into a lawyer taking a million dollars for a phony company he knows doesn’t really exist?”
That was a good question, and one for which I had no answer. The one thing we do know is that the million dollars was never deposited by Faskens lawyer Gerald Ranking into any bank account in the name of his fraudulent, non-existent, phoney Barbados client ‘PricewaterhouseCoopers East Caribbean Firm’.
I shared a chuckle with the Attorney General for British Columbia, The Honourable Suzanne Anton Q.C., whom I did not recognize. Ms. Anton is a gracious person, and from what I heard at the reception, is a zealous advocate for integrity and ethical behaviour in the legal profession.
Lieutenant-General Dallaire is, of course, an outstanding Canadian who disobeyed orders and in doing so saved thousands of lives in Rwanda. General Dallaire was pleased to hear greetings from a mutual friend and spoke to me about how greed and corruption threaten our very humanity.
Professor Joel Bakan of the Peter A. Allard School of Law is a member of the Allard Prize Committee, author of the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power and writer of the acclaimed film The Corporation. The Corporation won best documentary at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Professor Bakan’s work also shows how corporations rely upon unethical lawyers to commit and get away with some of their most egregious abuses. I enjoyed speaking with him about the making of his documentary.
“Yours is an African problem, not a Canadian one.”
Co-winner of the 2015 Allard Prize, John Githongo of Kenya, spoke about my case and advised me, “Yours is an African problem, not a Canadian one.” Fellow prizewinner, Angola-based human rights activist and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais replied with a humorous touch of feigned surprise, “Apparently corrupt lawyers are not just an African problem.”
Mr. Marques de Morais and Mr. Githongo were also shocked to hear how in some twenty court appearances no judge ever consented to listen to the voice recording that proves lawyers Gerald Ranking and Lorne Silver fabricated evidence and lied to the court to convict me and send me to jail.
I also had the honour of speaking with representatives for the two finalists who received honourable mention: Sely Martini of Indonesia Corruption Watch, and the widow, son and mother of Sergei Magnitsky, who was nominated posthumously. Mr. Magnitsky was an honest and courageous law firm auditor who was falsely arrested after he exposed a corrupt scheme to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian tax revenues. He was held without charges for almost a year, tortured and finally beaten to death by Putin’s thugs.
The critical role of lawyers in stopping global corruption
During his acceptance speech at the Allard Prize awards ceremony, Mr. Marques de Morais said, “(unethical) Lawyers are servants in the architecture of corruption.”
In conversation, both Mr. Githongo and Mr. Marques de Morais expressed the opinion that corruption is becoming more sophisticated, and that most of the large acts of corruption rely upon unethical lawyers in some manner, at the very least as facilitators. Thus, the legal profession is crucial to stopping global corruption.
There will always be some lawyers who embrace greed, ignore the Rule of Law and engage in corrupt acts in support of their powerful clients. It is a part of the human experience that some individuals will yield to temptation.
The real danger though, is when the legal profession and its regulators turn a blind eye to lawyers who choose to become “servants in the architecture of corruption.”
When this happens, corruption thrives and the Rule of Law soon withers away.
As shown in the circumstances of my case, Canadians deserve much better from the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ontario legal profession. LSUC and the Ontario legal profession obviously fear transparency and accountability.
In this, Ontario lawyers are little different than the policing organizations of 30 years ago who assured Canadians that they were capable of self-oversight with the public trust foremost in their agenda.
That was an absurdity and so the citizens of Ontario through their government established the SIU to take civiliian oversight of serious incidents involving police.
Why should it be any different with the legal profession? There must be civilian oversight of investigations into wrongdoing by lawyers.
Allard Prize Winners, photo credit: Allard Prize for International Integrity
DonaldBest.CA reminds our readers that as of the publication date none of the allegations has yet been proven in a court of law. Visitors are encouraged to examine the legal documents and other evidence posted here, to do independent research and to make up their own minds about the civil lawsuit known as ‘Donald Best v. Gerald Ranking et al’. (Superior Court of Justice, Central East Region: Barrie, Court File No. 14-0815)