$15M Judgement Rendered Against Calgary Couple

On November 1, 2002, a Calgary court awarded a $15 million judgment to the victim of one of the largest bank frauds in Canadian history. On February 27, 2002, Salvador E. Casanova filed a statement of claim against Bank of Montreal, Anita Koo and her son, Jonathan Koo, in Calgary. Anita’s husband, Tony Koo, and his company, Tony Koo Enterprises Ltd., were added as parties at a later date.

Casanova resides in Mexico, and had been dealing with the bank since the 1980s. Casanova, now 87 years old, had put millions of dollars on deposit with the bank, ultimately for his children’s inheritance. Casanova dealt exclusively with Anita Koo. Casanova maintains that, while he had been receiving original bank certificates from Koo indicating that his account at the bank had grown to over US$9 million, she systematically reduced his accounts to zero. Casanova also claims against Bank of Montreal alleging a breach of fiduciary duty as well as negligence giving rise to his loss.

On February 27, 2002, the bank commenced a related action against Anita Koo, her son and her husband, and his company. On February 26, Justice Wilkins of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta granted an ex parte order for inspection of third party documents, which allowed counsel for Casanova and the bank to inspect the Koo bank records and to attempt to trace what happened to Casanova’s money.

After reviewing the bank documents, Casanova and the bank moved on an ex parte basis for attachment and preservation orders of all the Koo’s assets, as well as Anton Piller orders. Justice Wilkins granted these orders on May 15. During the execution of the orders, an assortment of documents and items were seized including blank bank forms, letters forged in the name of Salvador Casanova, several automobiles, a house and condominium and over eight hundred bottles of fine wine.

On June 7, Anita Koo and her son filed statements of defence. Tony Koo and Tony Koo Enterprises have not defended the Casanova action. Sometime in June 2002, Anita Koo and her husband disappeared from Calgary. On June 17, Richter, Allan & Taylor Inc. was appointed receiver of the Koo’s assets. On November 1, counsel for Casanova moved for judgment against Anita Koo, Tony Koo and Tony Koo Enterprises. Justice Wilkins held that the plaintiff had clearly established a valid cause of action and that there was no genuine issue for trial raised by Anita Koo. The court granted judgment in the amount of $15,480,833.93 against Anita Koo, her husband and Tony Koo Enterprises and costs of the motion and action on a solicitor and his own client basis. Judgment was not sought against Jonathan Koo. Bank of Montreal has not yet delivered a statement of defence.

Salavador Casanova was represented by Ronald Walker (litigation), assisted by Jamison Steeve (litigation) of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Toronto, along with Jim McFadyen and Allan Guty of Parlee McLaws LLP in Calgary. The Bank of Montreal was represented by Matt Lindsay and Munaf Mohamed of Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP in Calgary. Andrew Robertson of Macleod Dixon LLP in Calgary represented Jonathan Koo.