A former senior provincial government official accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars as a private practice lawyer has pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft just before going on trial.
Yassin Choukri entered a guilty plea to a charge of theft over $5,000 during a hearing in Moncton’s Court of King’s Bench on Friday.
A judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that media could report the plea following an application by the Times & Transcript newspaper to lift a publication ban.
A 15-day trial was scheduled to start Oct. 16 on eight fraud charges, alleging Choukri stole a total of $486,148 from clients while serving as a private lawyer between 2014 and 2016.
According to notes in the court file, Choukri’s lawyer and Crown prosecutors reached a plea deal that will see him admit to one charge “related to the same facts” as contained in the original charges.
Choukri was a law partner of former premier Bernard Lord and served as the chief of staff in Lord’s office. He was appointed deputy minister of justice in 2003, but left government after the Progressive Conservatives lost the 2006 election.
He was appointed the public intervener for hearings before the Energy and Utilities Board by the Alward government in 2010.
Choukri was disbarred by the Law Society of New Brunswick after a hearing found he’d misappropriated funds from 10 former clients totalling more than $720,000.
He abandoned his legal practice in 2016 and disappeared.
Choukri was arrested in Ontario in 2020 and brought back to New Brunswick to face the charges.
The law society considered it one of the largest cases of misappropriation of funds by one of its members in decades.
A joint sentencing recommendation from Choukri’s defence lawyer and the prosecutor is expected.
The details of what he’s admitted have yet to be given. Court file notes indicate an agreed statement of facts will be presented later.
Choukri is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 8.
After he was arrested and charged, Choukri was released on bail and had been living in Riverview.
He was not in the courtroom for Wednesday’s hearing on whether to lift the publication ban. He and his lawyer, Gilles Lemieux, appeared by phone.
This article was originally sourced from www.CBCNews.ca