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BC’s Supreme Court orders hefty punitive damages in auto fraud ring case


August 18, 2011   by Canadian Underwriter


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British Columbia’s Supreme Court has ordered fraudsters to repay ICBC more than $344,000 for claims incured as a result of an auto theft ring.
In his written decision for ICBC v. Ben-Jaafar, Justice Cullen describes how the fraud ring made phoney Alberta registration documents for stolen vehicles and resold them to legitimate buyers in BC’s lower mainland in 2002 and 2003. Twenty-seven individuals and companies were named in the action.
The scheme started with the creation of false Alberta Vehicle Registration certificates (AVRC), which were used to register the various stolen or fraudulently obtained vehicles in B.C. using a false vehicle identification number (VIN), he wrote.
AVRCs were fabricated in each case because any attempt to register a vehicle that had been reported stolen in British Columbia would be caught by ICBC. The advantage of manufacturing a VIN on a forged AVRC was that the ICBC computers would not be able to reveal whether the falsely identified vehicle had ever in fact been registered in Alberta.
Other falsified documents were used to complete the process of disguising the identity of and reregistering the stolen vehicles. The vehicles being imported into BC required an inspection by a vehicle inspector who would complete a private vehicle inspection report. Then, they would be transferred from the fictitious or unwitting Alberta resident into the name of an unwitting British Columbia resident using a transfer/tax form generally used on the pre-text that the transfer was a “gift” to the unwitting recipient to avoid the payment of taxes.
There would then be a transfer of the vehicle to a real person – the ultimate owner who would pay the person or persons involved in the scheme.
Justice Cullen awarded punitive damages against the conspirators in the amount of $10,000 per vehicle and between $2,000-$3,000 per vehicle for the defendants who knowingly acquired the stolen vehicles, or who took steps to conceal the true facts from the court.
The main players in the ring received the following orders:
•Vikram Atwal was held liable for a total of approximately $113,365, together with punitive damages of $40,000;
•Jaspal Atwal was found liable for special damages of $22,931 (claims paid by ICBC), plus $5,000 in punitive damages.
•Jasraj Bains was found liable for $96,510.04 plus $40,000 in punitive damages; and
•Jagjit Gill was found liable for $68,730.67, plus $50,000 in punitive damages.