Resolution for Phaeton Automotive Group after 10-year legal odyssey


LONDON, ONT. – The convoluted, confounding and protracted legal battle against Wajde Darwish has finally ended.

Darwish, former accountant and chief financial officer of the Phaeton Automotive Group, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of fraud over $5,000. He was ordered to pay $500,000 to the company and owner Emain Kadrie, according to the London Free Press.

He was also sentenced to two years less a day with the first nine months served in house arrest.

It was 13 years ago that allegations of misdeeds first surfaced related to Darwish and his work with Phaeton. The group currently owns Oakridge Ford, Toyota Town and Lexus of London in London, Ont., and Richmond Hill Toyota, Richmond Hill Hyundai and Thornhill Hyundai.

Financial irregularities were spotted in 2002 when Phaeton submitted a bank loan application. A police investigation followed with then CFO Darwish being charged in 2005 with one count of fraud over $5,000 and 17 counts of forging cheques.

The Free Press said he argued money he received was employment compensation and that it should be fought in civil and not criminal courts.

The case was stayed in the Ontario Court of Justice in 2007 after it was successfully argued that the Crown’s forensic audit wasn’t independent.

The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned that stay in 2010 and ordered a new trial. After the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the appeal in 2012, a new trial began in London last February.

Reports indicate the other 17 counts of cheque forgery were withdrawn by the Crown helping end the case this week.

“This may be the oldest criminal prosecution in the country,” Superior Court Justice Duncan Grace said.

- With files from The London Free Press