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Vancouver pot stock promoter pleads the Fifth in massive U.S. fraud case

Avtar Dhillon stepped down as director of Vancouver-based cannabis firm Emerald Health Therapeutics following his arrest.
Vancouver-based marijuana stock promoter Avtar Dhillon has been charged with securities fraud, conspiracy and obstruction.

Former Vancouver cannabis company director Avtar Dhillon has responded to the civil securities fraud charges brought forth against him by the U.S. Securities Commission by pleading the Fifth and requesting a trial by jury.

Dhillon’s 32-page response to the commission largely contains over 200 identical assertions that he has the right against self-incrimination and hence refuses to answer any of the allegations.

Represented by Boston defence attorneys George Vien and Adrienne Ward, Dhillon demanded a trial by jury “to all issues so triable.”

Dhillon’s response follows his court-granted request to push back his response deadline in order to full reply to the charges.

Meanwhile, his alleged accomplice ex-Vancouver lawyer Fred Sharp has not responded to the commission and defaulted on the case. The commission has since filed for a US$52.9-million settlement from Sharp.

Both Dhillon and Sharp are also facing criminal charges of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud related to the alleged scheme that utilized offshore accounts to commit illegal insider trading and other stock fraud offences. Dhillon is also criminally charged with two counts of obstruction of a proceeding before the commission.

But whereas Sharp, the so-called “mastermind” of the scheme, may be in Canada, Dhillon was arrested last August in Long Beach, California. He has since turned in his passport and is monitored by authorities with a GPS ankle bracelet after posting a $1.5-million bond. 

Dhillon, 60, was once a family physician, after obtaining a medical degree from the University of B.C., but over the past 25 years he has pivoted his career toward promoting mainly health science companies and claimed to have raised more than $1 billion from investors. He's also served as past chairman of the Cannabis Canada Council and is a former member of the securities practice advisory committee to the B.C. Securities Commission.

There are 13 British Columbians, including Sharp and Dhillon, charged with criminal and/or civil securities offenses related to the offshore shell and illegal trading scheme. That number could grow given the commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation allege hundreds of U.S. penny stock companies were involved in over $1 billion worth of trades, netting $770 million for the network, including the alleged conspirators, company insiders and all the people along the line involved in transactions, such as brokerages and law firms.

An untold number of unsuspecting investors are said to be the victims of the massive scheme.

Dhillon is said to have profited $5 million from the transactions the commission has identified in charging documents.

Dhillon stepped down as director of Vancouver-based cannabis firm Emerald Health Therapeutics following his arrest.

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