NANAIMO — After years of hardships, a lengthy legal battle and having their names dragged through the mud, a Nanaimo family has triumphed in a legal battle against the Canada Revenue Agency.
In a B.C. Supreme Court decision published on March 2 by the Honourable Justice Robert Punnett, Tony and Helen Samaroo, who own the MGM restaurant, a night club and also a hotel, were awarded nearly $1.7 million.
It's revealed in the 90-page ruling the Samaroo's were “wrongfully and maliciously persecuted” by the Canada Revenue Agency during a lengthy court case.
The Samaroo's were charged with 21 counts of tax evasion in 2008, accused of not properly representing the MGM Restaurant's earnings from their graveyard shift and skimming $50,000 a month for themselves.
However, they were acquitted of all charges on April 6, 2011. During the 19-day trial, the judge heard how the earnings from the graveyard shift were simply rolled into the earnings from their night shift, since such a small amount of money was made during those hours.
The Samaroo's filed their lawsuit against the CRA and lawyers involved on March 29, 2012.
Justice Punnett said the case against them was insufficient and the CRA “initiated the prosecution...when it was wrongful to do so.
“The manner in which the prosecution was initiated and carried out was egregious. It must be denounced. CRA employees looked forward with unprofessional glee to the plaintiffs' anticipated conviction and sentencing and their resulting ruination. It is appalling that the incarceration of the plaintiffs would be joked about.”
Even though they were acquitted, the family claimed the damage was already done.
Helen and Tony Samaroo “became very quiet and depressed.” The verdict said the family's name was publicly disparaged and could never recover. Their daughter allegedly stopped using their last name because of the shame associated with the charges.
Regular customers at the MGM stopped coming and never returned once they were acquitted.
Helen Samaroo testified “others now looked at her differently and she felt embarrassed to go to the restaurant and visit her customers,” and the charges had a “profound effect on their family life and their house ceased being a hub of family life and became quiet.”
Tony Samaroo said he “lost his spirit and his strength. He spends his days watching TV and no longer socializes. He is drinking and smoking more.”
The couple is no longer together.
In total, Helen and Tony Samaroo were awarded nearly $350,000 for legal fees, $300,000 each for aggravated damages and $750,000 for punitive damages.
On Twitter: @nanaimonewsnow
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