Securities regulator and revenue minister's arguments prevent B.C. couple from escaping $25-million debt

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      B.C. residents Thalbinder Singh Poonian and his wife, Shailu, owe a whopping amount of money to their creditors.

      According to a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling, the largest sums are being sought by the B.C. Securities Commission and the minister of national revenue, Diane Lebouthillier.

      In fact, $19 million is owed to the securities commission in connection with a 2015 ruling that the couple manipulated the share price of OSE Corp., which traded on the TSX Venture Exchange.

      Plus, they owe the Canada Revenue Agency $4.34 million in back taxes.

      The Poonians tried to avoid paying these debts by seeking a court order for an absolute or suspended discharge from bankruptcy.

      In their court submission, they purported to be "honest but unfortunate debtors”.

      And they maintained that they fell into financial trouble due to several factors, including a significant drop in their combined income and a business failure.

      Thalbinder Singh Poonian insisted that he "learned a very hard lesson involving my finances" as he described the securities commission's penalty as an "outlandish fine".

      However, B.C. Supreme Court Master Bruce Elwood didn't accept these arguments in the face of evidence submitted by the securities commission and the Canada Revenue Agency. So he denied their application.

      "As a result of the prohibitions imposed by the Commission, the Poonians may no longer pose a risk to the public in terms of market manipulation," Elwood wrote in his ruling. "But it would be contrary to the public interest, in my view, to grant them a suspended discharge from bankruptcy.

      "One of the purposes of the Commission’s enforcement powers, as found by the Court of Appeal in this case, is deterrence," he continued. "That purpose would be frustrated if a person having been ordered by the Commission to make a substantial payment could declare bankruptcy and then wait a prescribed period of time and be free of the financial consequences of his or her actions."

      Furthermore, Elwood concluded that there is "considerable doubt" whether the Poonians have been rehabilitated.

      "Their own evidence demonstrates that the Poonians refuse to take responsibility for their actions or the consequences of those actions for others," he wrote.

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