Suspended bâtonnière calls for inquiry on leaked shoplifting allegations

Lu Chan Khuong, the suspended bâtonnière at the Barreau du Quebec, has come out swinging against new reports over the weekend relating to an incident last year in which she is alleged to have shoplifted two pairs of high-priced jeans.

The Saturday report by La Presse is based on a confidential declaration that shows Khuong accepted a “non-judicial decision” in the incident, wherein the Crown decides not to lay charges despite convincing evidence.

The incident occurred on April 17, 2014, in a Simons clothing outlet in a Laval, Que., shopping mall. As Khuong left the store, security guards confronted her and asked her to step into their office. Khuong was found with two pairs of jeans worth approximately $455.

In the leaked declaration, which was published by La Presse, Khuong explains that she had been distracted by a phone call that occurred while she was cashing out. Moreover, Khuong argues she personally knows the owner of the retailer, Peter Simons, and would never have shoplifted from one of his outlets.

[Translated:] “If I had intended to steal something,” she writes, “I wouldn’t have robbed the business of one of my friends. This is all a result of a momentary distraction. I know Peter Simons. . . . I have dinner with him and he has dinner with us.”

Nearly a year after the incident, and soon after Khuong’s election on May 22 as bâtonnière, media reports began to surface about the incident. Khuong attempted to explain her decision to accept a non-judicial outcome in an interview with La Presse in which she is quoted as saying that she didn’t want to attract media attention or “waste time in the courts.”

The growing scandal, followed by Khuong’s off-the-cuff remarks, led the Barreau’s board of directors, in early July, to call a special meeting in which Khuong was suspended from her position.

Some observers have cited political motivations for the decision, given statements Khuong has made about wasteful spending at the Barreau. Khuong’s lawyer issued a formal notice immediately after the decision, demanding it be rescinded. The board has defended its position, arguing the position of bâtonnière must be beyond reproach.

Responding to the most recent spate of reports, Khuong has demanded Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée call a public inquiry to investigate the leak of confidential documents from her office. On Sunday, she also threatened legal action against La Presse, accusing it of violating her privacy and defaming her.

Khuong’s lawyer, Jean-François Bertrand, issued a public letter to the newspaper on Sunday demanding it issue a retraction and apologize for reports that, he says, are based on illegally obtained information and suggest criminal intent for what Khuong insists was an accident.

[Translated:] “This ‘authenticated statement’ — obtained and disseminated illegally — establishes without a doubt that the incident was a simple mistake and that there was never any intention to commit a theft. . . . There is no way that any serious and well-intentioned journalist could fail to see this.”

Neither Khuong nor her lawyer could be reached by Legal Feeds for comment.

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