Saturday 3 August 2013

Con artist protected by privacy

A group of people in Canada have found themselves in a Kafkaesque scenario where the law is protecting the individual who they allege sold them fake artworks, swindling them out of thousands of dollars, thereby preventing them from taking any action to recover their money.

24 hours Vancouver reports:
Starting more than two years ago, the five people say they were taken for more than $80,000 by a man claiming to sell original Chinese art, which on appraisal turned out to be fake.  
[One individual] Mr. Wu...said his frustration reached its zenith when police denied him the name of the swindler so he could sue him.  
Wu took the man to civil court for $27,000 only to discover the art dealer’s name he had filed in the lawsuit was also fake.  
Despite the art dealer’s son — also named in the suit under his real name — standing in the court, a judge told Wu in order to get the real name he could file a police report and then request a copy of it under the Freedom of Information Act, which he did.  
But when Wu received the report the real name of the mystery art dealer was blanked out, citing privacy concerns.
...The Vancouver Police Department concluded there was not enough evidence a crime had been committed, again leaving Wu and the four others to seek redress through the courts, which they can’t do without the name.  
“If I had his name I could take him to court,” Wu said.  
The VPD said it understands Wu’s frustration, but spokesman Sgt. Randy Fincham said the department’s hands were tied.  
“The man is more than entitled to inform the privacy commissioner of his lack of satisfaction with the FOI process,” Fincham said in an email. “Unfortunately, as a police agency, the law restricts our ability to release information about an individual, unless that person is charged with a criminal offence.”  
Wu said he has no idea what his next step will be, explaining a lawyer told him it could cost thousands to continue pursuing the case with no guarantee of getting his money returned. 
This seems like ridiculous situation to be in - knowing who conned you (albeit not their name), but without recourse to any remedy. Surely if there has been a wrong committed, whether civil or criminal, privacy law should not protect the wrong-doer.

 Source: 24 hours Vancouver, 23 July 2013

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