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India-origin senator under probe

Mobina Jaffer faces a probe in Canada after a Catholic mission that had hired her law firm accused her of sending inflated bills.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2008 18:21 IST

Indo-Canadian Senator Mobina Jaffer, a lawyer by profession, is facing a probe by the British Columbia Law Society after a Catholic mission that had hired her firm accused her of sending inflated bills.

Jaffer and her son Azool Jaffer-Jerai run the Dohm, Jaffer and Jerai law firm in Vancouver. They were hired by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 2000 to handle sex abuse claims filed against mission members by their former students at residential schools.

These schools, run exclusively for Canada's native Indian peoples, have increasingly come under the scanner for alleged sexual exploitation of residential students.

In their complaint against Senator Jaffer, the Catholic mission says her law firm charged an exorbitant fee of 6.7 million Canadian dollars (US$6.5 million) from them for its work between 2000 and 2004.

The mission claimed that the hourly fee of $450 by Jaffer and $200 by her son was "unreasonably high" and against billing norms.

It also claimed that sometimes they were charged for more than 24 hours a day.

Law Society spokesman Brad Daisley told a local daily that investigations against Jaffer and her son had actually begun three years ago. But they were put on hold as the Christian mission had also gone to the British Columbia Supreme Court against them.

With that lawsuit settled, he said, the Law Society has decided to investigate the matter.

If they are found guilty of impropriety by the Law Society, Jaffer and her son could face disciplinary action. It could also lead to suspension of their licence to practice.

Jaffer, who was born in Uganda and educated in Britain where her family fled after Idi Amin threw all Asians out in the early 1970s, traces her roots to Gujarat.

In 2001, she became the first Indian and Muslim woman to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.