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

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

Last updated on: December 15, 2023, 10:16h.

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 is 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 New Brunswick’s deputy AG from 2003 until 2006, when the election of a new provincial administration displaced him. 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, Choukri had developed a gambling addiction. This led to severe financial difficulties, prosecutors said in court last Friday.

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

On the Run

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 $11,987.

On Sept. 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 was arrested.

In October 2023, seven years after going on the lam, Choukri pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft of more than $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 the 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 isn’t 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.