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Ex-New Brunswick Deputy AG Who Gambled Client Funds Faces Prison

by California Digital News

Posted on: December 12, 2023, 02:15h. 

Last updated on: December 12, 2023, 02:15h.

The former Deputy Attorney General of the Canadian province of New Brunswick stole $481,148 from his clients while serving as a private lawyer. Now, Crown prosecutors in Moncton, N.B., are asking for a three-year prison term for the ex-prosecutor who fled the province after pillaging client accounts.

Yassin Choukri, Casino New Brunswick
Yassin Choukri pictured addressing reporters in an undated photograph. The lawyer went on the run for four years after embezzling his clients’ money and was eventually found running a problem gambling program. (Image: CBC)

Yassin Choukri served as deputy AG from 2003 until 2006 when he was displaced by the election of a new provincial administration. In 2010, he was appointed the public intervener for hearings before the province’s Energy and Utilities Board.

But around the time he left government and returned to private practice in the New Brunswick capital, Fredericton, he developed a gambling addiction. This led to severe financial difficulties, prosecutors said in court last Friday.

On the Run

Between 2014 and 2016, Choukri gradually withdrew money from clients’ trust accounts under his control in instalments of several thousand dollars at a time.

The money was primarily used to repay credit card debt and cash advances from Casino New Brunswick in Moncton, according to prosecutors.

Choukri’s lawyer said he would mainly play poker. The Hendon Mob Database lists a Canadian player from Fredericton with the same name who cashed in three tournaments between 2013 and 2014 for a total of $11,987.

On September 27, 2016, checks drawn from the trust accounts began to bounce and Choukri disappeared. His wife reported him missing on September 29.

In August 2020, he was tracked down to Mississauga, Ont., where he had established a program for problem gamblers, and arrested.

In October 2023, seven years after going on the lam, Choukri pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft of over $5,000.

‘Cautionary Tale’

On Friday, Choukri told the court that he was “ashamed” of everything that had happened. Speaking in French, he apologized to his family, former clients, the legal profession, and justice system, CBC News reported.

“It is a cautionary tale,” Crown prosecutor Vicky Doucette told reporters. “This was a gambling addiction. It shows how high someone can be and how low they can fall. He is now a man that lives with his mother… Now he’s going to have to pay his debt to society. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be a monetary debt. It’s going to be a period of time in a federal institution.”

The prosecution is not seeking restitution from the defendant because he has no money. All the funds he stole from his clients are gone, Doucette said.

“They belong to the casinos now,” she added.

Choukri will be sentenced on December 18.

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