A Toronto criminal lawyer faces an investigation into her relationship with a terrorist client after jail-guards alleged they saw videos of her crawling under the table during jail-house visits, the Toronto Sun has learned.
Rishma Gupta promised the Law Society of Ontario on Sept. 4, 2018 that she’d stop practising while law society investigators pursued their probe of her relationship with alleged terrorist client Pamir Hakimzadah.
She is not admitting to the alleged “professional misconduct or lack of capacity to practise law at this time,” her Aug. 28, 2018 undertaking to the law society stated.
By making this undertaking, Gupta avoided a public temporary licence suspension hearing where the allegations that prompted the investigation would have been revealed, sources told the Sun.
On Feb. 1, 2019, Hakimzadah pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in Toronto as he admitted he left Canada to participate in ISIS terrorist activity on the same day day Parliament Hill was attacked by a gunman who murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
Hakimzadah, now 29, flew from Toronto to Amsterdam on Oct. 22, 2014 and then travelled to Istanbul, Turkey the next day, court heard. Hakimzadah, who will be sentenced Feb. 26, is now represented by Toronto criminal lawyer Luka Rados.
While Hakimzadah was represented by Gupta, she visited him at Toronto South Detention Centre in a private meeting room which allows an an inmate and a lawyer to face one another at a wall-to-wall table.
Guards, who intermittently monitor these rooms through a window, allegedly spotted Gupta with her feet on Hakimzadah’s lap as he massaged them, sources told the Sun.
Gupta was issued a warning, but on a subsequent visit, guards allegedly caught her repeating this behaviour and suspended her visiting privileges with her client.
Guards reviewed previous videotaped visits by Gupta and allegedly discovered she crawled under the table towards her client on multiple occasions. None of the allegations have been proven.
“She has co-operated with the law society, but she’s not the subject of a disciplinary hearing,” said Gupta’s lawyer, Nadia Liva, in an interview. “She denies any inappropriate sexual contact with any client.”
The law society doesn’t comment on active investigations.
Gupta, who passed the bar in 2014, “was an assertive lawyer with a large number of clients,” said a member of the large downtown firm where she worked before leaving and signing the law society undertaking.
Hakimzadah was charged in 2017 with leaving the country to join a terrorist group on or about Oct. 22, 2014, the day that Cirillo was murdered by a man who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and just two days after another follower fatally ran down Canadian Forces Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
Speaking outside a downtown courthouse after Hakimzadah’s 2017 arrest, Gupta told reporters her client was “kind of shocked by these charges.
“He’s upset,” Gupta told Global News after her client appeared briefly in April 2017. “They’re serious charges.”
Hakimzadah’s plan was foiled when a Turkish cabbie suspected “he was trying to join ISIS and turned him over to the police,” court heard on Feb. 1 when he pleaded guilty to those serious charges.
Turkish authorities deported him back to Canada on Nov. 19, 2014 and banned him from entering Turkey for one year. After he returned from Turkey, the young man “privately admitted that he left Canada for the purposes of contributing to the fight for Allah but authorities caught and detained him,” court heard on Feb. 1.