Former Manitoba Liberal Party president Paul Hesse has been suspended from practicing law and may face at least one misconduct charge, as the profession's regulatory body continues its investigation into allegations of improper immigration activities involving at least 20 clients.
The Law Society of Manitoba suspended Hesse's license on Wednesday, according to a notice posted on its website. The suspension will remain in place pending the investigation's outcome and any disciplinary proceedings that may follow, the notice stated.
Interim suspensions are a "somewhat unusual" step, Law Society CEO Kristin Dangerfield said, and issued only if the society’s investigation committee has authorized a charge to go forward against an individual.
"A suspension isn't common, but this is an interim suspension pending the completion of an investigation," Dangerfield said. "A committee will do that where it has determined that it is in the public interest to suspend a member from practicing law."
In this case, Dangerfield confirmed, the investigation committee has authorized at least one misconduct charge against Hesse to move forward.
It’s still too early in the investigation to know when any charges against Hesse will be referred to a disciplinary committee to evaluate the charges, Dangerfield said.
Hesse is the second lawyer to be suspended this year, and the first during an ongoing investigation.
Once a prominent immigration lawyer and rising political star, Hesse was terminated as a partner at Pitblado Law in early June, after the firm said it discovered evidence that Hesse had advised clients to invest in businesses owned by his now-ex romantic partner, Patrick Maxwell.
Since then, dozens of former staff at Maxwell's businesses, including Osborne Village pet groomer and doggie daycare White Lotus Pet Spa, have come forward to allege years of harassment and psychological abuse from Maxwell, as well as voice their concerns over business practices linked to foreign investors.
Sources told the Free Press that Maxwell and Hesse sometimes enlisted White Lotus staff to create websites and sign articles of incorporation for what several ex-staff members characterized as "fake businesses," that would later be sold to foreign investors.
One of Hesse's former immigration clients told the Free Press that in early 2019, the lawyer had encouraged him to make a $30,000 investment deposit in a purported home rental business owned by Maxwell. The investment would pave the way for a work permit and immigration to Manitoba, he was told.
In emails to the client, seen by the Free Press, Hesse said the investment would be "guaranteed" and that the business was profitable. Former White Lotus staff said that business was one of several set up by Hesse and Maxwell that had little or no revenue or outside clients.