The Ismaili Equation

August 20, 2006 at 3:20 pm (modern info)

In the last three decades they’ve built some of B.C.’s biggest companies, raised
stacks of cash for good causes and quietly joined the golf and country club set.
But who are these modern-thinking Muslims, and where did they get their Midas
touch?

Adriana Barton

From the July 2006 issue
Dina Goldstein

“My main mosque is my car,” jokes Mossadiq Umedaly, an Ismaili Muslim. And what
a lavish “mosque” it is: a silver Porsche Turbo he tools around in daily as he
commutes from his West Vancouver home to Burnaby’s Xantrex Technology Inc.,
the power-technology company he plans to build into the next Ballard Power
Systems. His goal isn’t all that far-fetched. Umedaly and former Ballard CEO Firoz
Rasul, also Ismaili, first met as 16-year-olds in an Outward Bound school at Mount
Kilimanjaro. Reunited decades later in Burnaby, with Umedaly as Ballard’s CFO, they
raised that company’s value to a cool US$6 billion in 1998.

As chairman of both Xantrex and Premier Campbell’s Alternative Energy and Power
Technology Task Force, Umedaly is lucky Ismaili prayer is less ritualistic than daily
prayers in many Muslim traditions. As he puts it: “If I’m in a business meeting, I
can’t stop everything and say, ‘Look, I have to kneel on the floor and pray.'”

Umedaly says three prayers a day (often in his Porsche) and pays visits to a
jamatkhana, or house of prayer and community. There, he joins other Ismailis to
revere Allah and to hear readings in English or Gujarati taken from writings by the
Ismaili spiritual leader, a man called His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, or the
Aga Khan. In the prayer hall, Ismailis meditate and sing spiritual poems called
ginans. They also donate up to 12 per cent of their income in cash, without
expecting a tax receipt. Privacy is crucial; outsiders are not allowed to observe
Ismaili rituals and all seven jamatkhanas in Greater Vancouver are inconspicuous by
design.

Driving past the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre on Canada Way, you’d never guess
this Burnaby site was designated by the Aga Khan as one of only three “high-
profile” jamatkhanas in the world (the others are in Lisbon, Portugal, and London,
England). In fact, you might not notice it at all. Designed by Bruno Freschi and
opened in 1985, the fortress-like structure is graced with copper domes and a
sunken courtyard garden – a symbol of earthly paradise. But this “paradise” and
the three-storey building are barely visible from the road. The structure was
largely dug below ground and “hidden deliberately,” says Farrah Jinha, an Ismaili PR
professional who used to give tours of the centre. “It’s very much assimilated into
the community.”

Hidden deliberately. This jamatkhana could be a metaphor for the local Ismaili
community, whose low profile belies its tremendous impact on the B.C. economy.
Larco Group of Companies owner Aminmohamed Lalji and his kin are routinely listed
among Canada’s 100 richest families in magazines such as Canadian Business;
Report on Business magazine estimated his wealth at $884 million. Abdul and
Shamim Jamal, who started out with a chicken farm in Chilliwack, now privately
own and/or operate 14 seniors’ facilities under the Retirement Concepts banner
with their son Azim. Among other real estate holdings, Noordin and Farida Sayani
privately own five of the 17 Executive Hotels and Resorts, a chain they founded
and run with their son, Salim.

And for every Lalji, Jamal, Umedaly and Sayani (all of whom live in West Van
mansions), there are countless Ismaili realtors, bankers, medical doctors and
lawyers in B.C., including Liberal Mobina Jaffer, who in 2001 became the first
Canadian senator to be sworn in on the Koran. You didn’t know she was Ismaili?
How about CTV/TSN sports reporter Farhan Lalji? Or UBC alum Nadir Mohamed, now
based in Toronto as president and COO of the communications division of Rogers?

Islam-a-phobia in the West, especially after 9/11, could explain why Ismailis don’t
advertise their faith. But Ismailis of Indian background have been living in B.C. in
significant numbers since the early 1970s. And like many other Muslims, they have
about as much in common with Islamic extremists as George W. Bush does. “It is
not natural for people to blow themselves up,” says Umedaly. “We as a society
should be wondering how we have put people in the situation that they do so.” So
why haven’t Ismailis played a more public role as modern-thinking Muslims?

The Vancouver Sun’s religion reporter, Douglas Todd, has often bemoaned the
community’s secrecy during his decade of trying to cover Canada’s Ismaili. (That
community by the way, has close to 75,000 members in Canada, according to the
Aga Khan’s Secretariat in France, and about 11,000 in Greater Vancouver.) His
frustration reached a peak after the Aga Khan paid a brief visit to Vancouver in
June 2005. “Ismailis are happy to highlight the Aga Khan’s many valuable charity
projects,” wrote Todd. “But try to dig below the polished surface of their tight-knit
community, and the door is invariably shut.”

Well, maybe not invariably. Few among the 20 or so Ismailis approached for this
BCBusiness article declined to be interviewed. And contrary to Todd’s experience,
local Ismailis were generally open about their spiritual beliefs, their personal lives
and the secrets behind their often staggering financial success.

Ismailis tend to be charming, well dressed and exceedingly gracious; they might
insist on giving you a lift or picking up the tab for lunch. And lunch, at their
suggestion, is more apt to be at the sumptuous Wedgewood or Sutton Place hotels
than at one of Vancouver’s few Ismaili restaurants (where African dishes such as
fried cassava root might be followed by Indian tandoori chicken).

Ismailis of a certain age speak with the eloquence and diction of the highly
educated; many attended Aga Khan schools in East Africa and completed their
PhDs in Europe. Before their expulsion from Uganda by dictator Idi Amin, they were
bankers, lawyers and coffee plantation barons. “We were referred to as the Jews
of East Africa,” says lawyer-turned-real-estate-broker Farouk Verjee, “and that’s a
compliment, by the way.”

Hanif Muljiani was eight years old when his family arrived penniless in Vancouver in
1972. His father, formerly the principal of the Muljianis’ privately owned school in
Uganda, worked as a parking lot attendant and took other menial jobs – a typical
story for B.C.’s Ismailis. “To come here and have to start again, literally from
scratch – it’s quite a humbling experience,” Muljiani recalls. He paid his own way
through university and became a chartered accountant. At 42, Muljiani is now
president and owner of The Portables, a company that supplies display booths and
marketing services, and recorded revenues of $13 million in 2005.

If Ismailis didn’t lose their Midas touch after their exodus from East Africa, it’s likely
because their role model is a multibillionaire. The Aga Khan owns a bank in
Pakistan, plantations in Kenya and a chain of luxury hotels, not to mention his own
jet, stables of racehorses and an estate outside Paris. In all, his holdings generate
an estimated US$1.36 billion in sales annually, according to a November 2005
Bloomberg.com article. For Ismaili Muslims, the Aga Khan’s riches do not detract
from his role as their spiritual leader, or imam, who they consider a direct
descendant of Islam’s prophet Muhammad. “The beauty of Islam is it doesn’t see a
distinction between the secular and the religious; you don’t have to be doing good
and be poor,” explains Umedaly.

The Aga Khan, 69, has devoted much of his life to good works. After receiving an
honorary Companion of the Order of Canada last year, he was awarded the Andrew
Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy for health, education and development initiatives in
strife-torn countries undertaken by the Aga Khan Development Network, which
disburses about US$300 million annually for such projects. Ismailis follow in his
philanthropic footsteps – literally. In Vancouver, the annual Ismaili Walk for Kids
raised $200,000 last year for a United Way children’s program. The 2005 annual
World Partnership Walk, a countrywide Aga Khan Foundation Canada event, raised
over $4 million for development initiatives in Asia and Africa.

“I think one of the reasons the Ismaili community is so very successful in business
is because we have been inspired by Aga Khan’s work – in all aspects, like the
philanthropy, the promoting of architecture and art, and his focus on business as
well as spirituality,” says Farida Sayani, managing director of Executive Hotels &
Resorts, who personally raised about half a million to fund the BC Cancer Agency’s
new research centre on West 10th Avenue in Vancouver. “We’re always connected
with him, spiritually and mentally, and in other ways.”

Ismailis rely on their spiritual leader to interpret Islam for contemporary times. “In
the Muslim world, there are sections that are very orthodox and there are sections
that are very advanced and allow the freedom to the women to grow,” says
Sayani. “For example, you see this a lot in the Croatian community, the Iranian
community and others, as well.”

The Aga Khan’s championing of higher education and independence for women has
directly impacted Sayani’s life. She went into business in the mid-1980s at the
urging of her husband, Noordin, who was able to get some of the family’s capital
out of Uganda before it was seized. “He found a nice piece of land [in Richmond]
and he thought that it would be just tidier for me to get a nice boutique hotel to
manage. At that time my youngest son was 14 and I was ready to get into the
workforce, and so that idea really appealed to me,” she says.

The first Executive Hotel opened just in time for Expo 86 and was marketed as a
high-end hotel at an affordable price. “It was not a very common thing to open an
all-suite hotel, which was ahead of its time and very successful,” says Sayani.
Those first 80 rooms have multiplied to 850, divided among Executive Hotels in the
Vancouver area. “To start your own creation and see it fly high, it’s very
energizing.”

Other Ismailis describe her as brilliant, but Sayani is quick to share the praise. “My
husband is a very smart business person and, given the opportunity, I excel in my
own way, too. The strength of both of us is our success.”

Ismailis are not ones to brag about their accomplishments; humility is paramount in
their faith. But that may not be the whole story. In this small and tight-knit
community, everyone knows everybody else – and is eager to know how much
others make. “We’re a very competitive community,” Verjee says, chuckling. “There
can be a lot of envy.”

There is also remarkable community support for aspiring entrepreneurs. The Ismaili
Council for British Columbia, which has counterparts worldwide, is divided into
boards responsible for various aspects of the community’s well-being. Muljiani
chairs the economic planning board. To be financially successful, he says, “You
need role models, enough security to take risks, mentors, a drive to succeed and a
belief in higher education. Our community has every single one of those.”

He describes a hypothetical family of four with two incomes of $45,000 a
year. “Try and buy a home, and it’s tough in Vancouver,” he says. “If we can help
get them up to $60,000 or $70,000, their quality of life improves and they are able
to give back.” Support from the council might include career-planning and skills
development, seminars on financial planning, mentorships and events that
emphasize business ownership as a proven means of increasing prosperity.

The global network of well-heeled Ismailis is an added boon to some entrepreneurs.
Verjee, who founded Chase Realty in Vancouver 26 years ago, brokers major
commercial real-estate deals with offshore clients, many of them Ismaili. “A lot of
investors in the Muslim world want to invest in Canada and not the U.S., and I
have connections in that world,” he says. Although he reports annual sales in the
$20-million-plus range, he doesn’t dream of co-investing. “Most of the people I
deal with are so big, they don’t need a little fly [like me] with them.”

At the centre of this global network is the enigmatic figure of the Aga Khan. Entire
websites are devoted to his speeches, photos, achievements and marriages (he is
twice-divorced). The Ismailis’ fascination with their leader may be no different from
the Catholics’ devotion to the Pope, except that certain Ismailis believe the mere
sight of His Highness in person is a hajj, or spiritual pilgrimage. To revere the Aga
Khan “is not correct,” says Verjee, “but who are we to tell people how it should
be?”

For fundamentalist Muslims, however, even the remote possibility that god might
take human form is blasphemy; they dispute the Aga Khan’s ancestral link to the
prophet Muhammad and have denounced the Ismailis throughout history. Umedaly
recalls a conversation he had with a Muslim cab driver soon after the Aga Khan’s
last visit to B.C. “These Aga Khan-ers,” the cabbie apparently scoffed, “these are
not real Muslims.” Umedaly says he responded by “educating him, because it is
important to do so. But he was quite adamant that if you have any modern
interpretation of religion, then you are a traitor to it.” Akbarally Meherally, a former
Ismaili living in B.C., claims that Ismailis glorify the Aga Khan in private. He has
even started an online registry of disgruntled former Ismailis, but the rants on his
website (mostmerciful.com) smack of conspiracy theories.

The Aga Khan publicly declares he is not a deity. As for the title His Highness, it is
not a sign of ego run amok, but a moniker bestowed by Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth in 1957, when the Aga Khan was 20. (Although he has two sons, he has
yet to name a successor; some Ismailis believe his daughter, 35-year-old Princess
Zahra, should inherit the title.) Harvard-educated, the Aga Khan was born in
Geneva to an English mother and a half-Indian, half-Italian father. By all accounts,
he is a spiritual leader who emphasizes intellect and independent thought.
Frequency of attendance at jamatkhanas and lifestyle choices such as drinking
alcohol are individual decisions. As Muljiani explains, “Nobody says, ‘You can’t do
this or that or you will go to hell.'”

Ismailis keep their religious rituals private, either out of fear of persecution or due
to the meditative nature of their prayer. “You’ve got a bunch of people and they’re
all praying,” says Muljiani. “From a spiritual point of view, there’s a lot of energy
and it’s all coming together. If there is someone there who is not a part of that,
will that affect the psychic energy?”

While the Ismaili faith can be esoteric behind closed doors, the Aga Khan, in his
public speeches, is anything but. He promotes pluralism, tolerance and civil
society – principles that couldn’t be more in line with Canadian ideals. “His Highness
has said one thing to us,” says Jinha: “‘Do not impose our values onto others.'”

Pluralism isn’t just a token concept for Ismailis. “Interfaith marriage is perfectly fine
and accepted, which is actually counter to the general perception of Muslims,”
says Irfhan Rajani, president of Apparent Networks. (Rajani’s wife is Chinese
Canadian.) Muljiani, whose fianc�e is Sikh, suggests the only challenge for
interfaith marriages might be the Ismaili tradition of volunteering, which starts at
age eight. “What if the belief in volunteerism isn’t as strong in another faith?” he
asks. “Volunteering is very time-intensive and takes time away from your family.”

As interfaith marriage becomes more common in younger Ismailis, so does breaking
out of the doctor/lawyer/tycoon mould. “The next generation looks at the arts and
other things because they find sponsors in the preceding group,” says Umedaly,
whose musician son, Farhan, has partnered with a Lebanese woman to market
songs to Arabic countries. Last year, contemporary Ismaili artists presented a full-
scale exhibition at the Roundhouse Community Centre on False Creek. And this
spring, Ismailis took part in a show of traditional and contemporary art by Muslim
Canadians at the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery in Victoria.

Artistic, well educated, generous, successful – could this community be too good
to be true? Well, the occasional Ismaili might be a little overzealous about making
money. Senator Mobina Jaffer’s law firm, Dohm Jaffer & Jeraj, was sued in April
2005 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Members of the Catholic
order, who take vows of poverty, alleged that Jaffer charged the “unjustifiable”
rate of $450 an hour for her legal services. In a sworn affidavit, Jaffer countered
that the Oblates had previously suggested a fee reduction for outstanding legal
bills and then sent a cheque for the negotiated amount. The matter is still in court.
More disturbing is the case of Salim Damji, 36, who in 2002 pleaded guilty to
defrauding fellow Ismailis in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary of more than $40
million in a teeth-whitening scam. He claimed to have a patent that would be sold
to Colgate-Palmolive for more than $400 million. The Ismaili tithing system may also
be vulnerable to fraud, as Douglas Todd reported in a 1995 Vancouver Sun article.
Donations are collected on behalf of the Aga Khan and then distributed to
charities. But unlike most Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations, jamatkhanas
do not issue tax receipts. Up to 12 per cent of an Ismaili’s gross income can add
up to a lot of cash, which is not subject to government tax audits. In 1989, a
money-laundering scheme involving religious donations led to convictions in Texas
and elsewhere against 12 U.S. Ismailis.

Corruption happens in every community, of course. What’s striking about these
incidents of controversy among Ismailis is how rarely they occur. Ismailis appear to
be exemplary citizens and employers. One would be hard-pressed to find an Ismaili-
run company in Vancouver that does not contribute to at least one worthy cause.

Orbital Technologies, founded by Amyn Rajan, has set up endowments at SFU, UBC
and UVic. Amir Ahamed’s Regency Auto Group is the title sponsor for World
Partnership Golf, a series of charitable tournaments held in major cities across
Canada. The B.C. edition of the tournament raised $140,000 last year, funds that
were matched by the Canadian International Development Agency. And Amica
Mature Lifestyles, run by the Manji family, delivered 900 Christmas gift baskets to
needy seniors in 2005.

From the start, Ismailis have immersed themselves in Canadian society to avoid
becoming what Verjee calls “hyphenated Canadians.” The Aga Khan, a friend of the
late Pierre Trudeau, recently strengthened his Canadian ties. A grand-scale Ismaili
centre will rise in Toronto, as well as an Aga Khan museum to house the world’s
largest collection of Islamic art. Ottawa will see construction of the Delegation of
the Ismaili Imamat (a quasi-embassy and secular facility) and the Global Centre for
Pluralism. “Canada is a very exciting place for Ismailis worldwide – it’s the place to
be,” says Jinha.

The exception might be the Aga Khan-related institutions in central Asia and
farther east. Former eXI Wireless CEO Karim Khoja left Vancouver more than three
years ago to head Afghanistan’s largest cell-phone provider, Roshan, a company
51-per-cent-owned by the Aga Khan Development Network. And Firoz Rasul of
Ballard fame is now in Karachi completing a decade-long volunteer term as
president of the Aga Khan University, an institution with teaching sites in more
than a dozen countries.

Rasul says he receives “a lot of phone calls and emails” in Pakistan from Ismailis
eager to follow his lead. Both Hanif Muljiani and Mossadiq Umedaly (who worked as
an administrator for seven years at the same Aga Khan university early in his
career) say they’d like to pursue pro bono work overseas down the road.

Meanwhile, Rasul is thinking of going into business with his daughters in Vancouver
once his term in Karachi is up. “I have always had some interest in publishing and
broadcasting, and in distance-education programs,” he says. Clearly he hasn’t lost
that entrepreneurial itch. “I’ve got that in my blood,” he says with a laugh.

Ismailis at a Glance

Ismaili history is as colourful as a Persian tapestry. Here is a short version.

Prince Karim Aga Khan IV became the present leader in July 1957, at age 20.

His stepmother was Rita Hayworth, the second wife of his playboy father who was
passed over as Aga Khan and died in a car crash outside Paris in 1960. And his
grandfather is famous for the story in which his followers in India matched his
243.5-pound weight in diamonds to mark his 60th anniversary as the Ismaili
spiritual leader in 1946.

The Aga Khan claims direct descent from Islam’s prophet Muhammad through the
prophet’s daughter, Fatima. The Fatimid rulers founded Cairo in 929 A.D.; later
their descendants moved to Syria and Persia. After the Mongol conquest in the
13th century, they dispersed throughout central Asia, the sub-continent and
farther east.

The Ismailis are part of the Shia branch of Islam. Shias make up about 15 per cent
of all Muslims; the rest are Sunnis. In the late 19th century, Indian-born Ismailis
built communities in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, which were then part of the
British Empire.

After living there for generations, the Ismailis were expelled from Uganda in the
early 1970s by dictator Idi Amin. Others left Kenya and Tanzania around the same
time because of socialist political regimes and a general sense of insecurity. The
present Aga Khan took steps to help them resettle in Europe, Canada and the U.S.

Ismailis now number 12 to 15 million and live in 25 countries around the world.

The Ismaili factor

B.C. companies owned or operated by Ismailis

Hotels and real estate:
Larco Group of Companies
Land developers specializing in hotel and retail properties throughout North
America, and self-storage facilities in Vancouver. Holdings include Park Royal
Shopping Centre, Whistler Village Centre and Larco Hospitality, which owns and/or
manages hotels under such brands as Marriott, Renaissance and Hilton (e.g.
Vancouver Airport Marriott and Renaissance Toronto Hotel Downtown).
Owners: Aminmohamed Lalji and family
Worth: An estimated $884 million

Executive Group of Companies
Management and development of boutique hotels and suites. Family company owns
five hotels (four in Vancouver, one in San Francisco) and is part owner of two
others; it also has a stake in the publicly traded Executive Inn Group Corporation.
Owners: Noordin and Farida Sayani, and son Salim
Worth: Projected revenue of $85 million in 2006 for the family-owned group of
companies

Mayfair Hotels and Resorts
Privately owns and/or operates 10 hotels in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo.
Among the properties: Robson Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites and Landis Hotel &
Suites in downtown Vancouver.
Co-owners: Akber Kassam and Zack Bhatia
Worth: N/A

Pan Pacific Vancouver AAA-rated five-diamond, 504-room hotel. Owners: The
Texas-based Mangalji family’s Westmont Hospitality Group, which has ownership
interests in about 380 hotels worldwide. Pan Pacific’s asset manager is Zul Somani
of Vancouver, who is a part owner of Vancouver’s Georgian Court Hotel, Granville
Island Hotel and Le Soleil Hotel. Worth: N/A

Sodican (BC) Ltd.
Real-estate ownership and acquisitions; holdings include 64,000-square-foot office
building in North Vancouver.
Owners: Azad and Yasmin Shamji
Worth: N/A

Retirement homes:
Retirement Concepts
Private, 1,500-employee company; owns and/or operates 14 seniors’ facilities and
three hotels.
Owners: Abdul and Shamim Jamal, and son Azim
Worth: N/A

Amica Mature Lifestyles Inc.
Publicly traded company. Manages, markets, designs and develops luxury housing
for seniors. There are 15 Amica Wellness & Vitality Residences across North
America, plus five in development.
Owner: Manji family share is about 35 per cent.
Worth: Communities under Amica management are valued at $300 million (2006),
with revenues under management of about $70 million.

Technology:
Xantrex Technology Inc.
Power electronics company with 500 employees; publicly traded as TSX:XTX with
29,922,185 common shares outstanding (as of March 31, 2006).
Ismaili factor: Mossadiq Umedaly, chairman, and vice-presidents Nazir Mulji and Al-
Karim Kara
Revenue: US$143 million in 2005

Apparent Networks
Software developer focusing on networking and connectivity; clients include Telus
and IBM, Boeing and Bell Canada; 45 employees total in Vancouver and Seattle.
Ownership: Co-founder and CEO Irfhan Rajani is significant investor-owner; other
investors include Telus, IBM, BDC Venture Capital and GrowthWorks Capital.
Revenue: Last-quarter revenues grew 200 per cent year-over-year (as of Feb.
2006).

Orbital Technologies Inc.
Employee-owned software developer for larger companies such as Microsoft and
Adobe; 90 per cent of business is with U.S. and European clients.
Ismaili factor: Amyn Rajan, co-founder, president and CEO.
Worth: Less than $10 million in 2005

Retail:
Regency Auto Group
Lower Mainland Toyota, Lexus, Nissan and Infiniti car dealerships with 140
employees.
Owner: Amir Ahamed
Worth: Annual sales in the $130 million range

Sleep Shop
Four Lower Mainland locations selling specialty mattresses and bedroom suites.
Owner: Haji Manji and son Farouq
Worth: Revenues surpassed $3 million in 2005

Shamin Jewellers Ltd.
Independent jeweller with 4,600-square-foot showroom.
Owner: Shahraz Kassam
Worth: Revenues of $1.69 million in 2005

Miscellaneous:
The Portables
Integrated provider of trade show equipment and exhibits; 11 locations with 90
employees throughout Canada
Owner: Hanif Muljiani
Worth: Revenues of $13 million in 2005

FNMH Architecture
Designs airports, embassies, Ismaili centres, private
residences and hotels worldwide. Headquarters in North Vancouver; branches in
Pakistan and Nairobi.
Owner: Farouk Noormohamed, architect, and wife Farida, interior designer
Worth: Volume of construction at any give time equal to about $90 million

Golden Boy Foods Inc.
Western Canada’s largest manufacturer of peanut butter, with approximately 200
employees.
Owner: Virani family
Worth: Annual revenues estimated at more than $50 million

Orko Silver Corp.
Exploratory resource company with sole ownership in La Preciosa silver project in
Durango, Mexico. Publicly traded as OK (TSX.V), with 56,826,471 shares
outstanding.
Ismaili factor: Officer Minaz (Mike) Devji was a driving force behind the sale of
Canada’s Kemess deposit for $200 million in 1996.
Worth: Company value approximately $45 million (compared to $8.32 million the
previous year), based on shares trading at $0.79 in May 2006 l
http://www.bcbusinessmagazine.com/ismailiJuly06.htm

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15 Comments

  1. Hameed said,

    http://www.nsnews.com/issues05/w050105/051305/news/051305nn2.html

    You have just mentioned Mobina Jaffer!! Check the article above! The article in North Shore says

    Senator faces lawsuit

    Jane Seyd

    jseyd@nsnews.com

    The law firm of Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer is being sued by an order of Catholic priests for allegedly improperly billing them almost $6.8 million to fight charges connected to native residential schools run by the priests.

    The lawsuit claims the Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Catholic order of priests who take a vow of poverty, were overcharged by Jaffer, her son Azool Jaffer-Jeraj, and their law firm, Dohm, Jaffer and Jeraj, in defending the priests against allegations of sexual and physical abuse.

    Among the allegations outlined in their lawsuit, the Oblates claim that in some cases, Jaffer’s law firm submitted bills for work by Jaffer and Jaffer-Jeraj “in excess of 24 hours a day.” In one instance, Jaffer submitted a bill for 22 hours of work in one day, according to the lawsuit, while Jaffer-Jeraj’s bill including “billing for over 10 hours per day” for every regular weekday between March 1, 2003 and March 22, 2005, according to the documents filed in court.

    The Oblates have also alleged they were charged an “unreasonable high rate” for much of the work, including $450 an hour by Jaffer, and $200 an hour by Jaffer-Jeraj, despite his inexperience at the time, plus charges of up to $100 per hour for secretarial work.

    The lawsuit also alleges the Oblates were billed multiple times for the same work by Jaffer’s law firm and in some cases were billed for work performed by staff members prior to them actually joining the law firm.

    The priests continued to pay the bills up until the fall of 2004, then decided to switch lawyers. But according to the lawsuit, Jaffer’s law company refused to hand over the files on the Oblates’ cases. Instead, the Oblates claimed in their lawsuit, the senator’s law firm handed the priests a bill at the end of March for over half a million dollars.

    According to the Oblates, except for 15 months, Jaffer and Jaffer-Jeraj were the only lawyers working on their cases in the five years between January of 2000 and January of 2005 – when the bill of almost $6.8 million was rung up.

    The Oblates are seeking an order from the court forcing Jaffer’s law firm to hand over their files to the priests’ new lawyers. They are also asking for all money improperly billed to be paid back to them, and for damages for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of trust and misrepresentation.

    “We have retained lawyers and we’re going to court. Obviously we don’t agree with (the allegations),” said Jaffer. “This is not a thing that I’d like to fight in the media. It’s best if it’s resolved in the courts.”

    Her law company is preparing a statement of defence, she said. “Obviously this will all come out in our reply.”

    Jaffer said she has been the Oblates’ lawyer for the past 15 years and has handled “thousands” of claims for them. “We’ve done some very good work for them,” she said.

    Jaffer said she was surprised by the lawsuit, but added, “I don’t ever badmouth people. I worked for them for 15 years and I don’t want to speak badly of people I worked for.”

    Prior to her appointment as a senator in 2001, Jaffer was an active member of the Liberal Party in North Vancouver, where she ran unsuccessfully for election in 1993.

    She was also vice-president of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1994 to 1998.

    Ravi Hira, the Oblates’ new lawyer, refused to comment on the case.

    A woman who answered the phone at Oblate House in Vancouver said “there’s no one here that wishes to speak about this at this time.”

    posted on 05/06/2005

  2. Imran Ali said,

    I am live in karachi Pakistan did you know about golden jubilee. in Which Which country.

  3. John said,

    Hi there,

    Just a quick note: the URL you cite in the article above has changed. Please update your link to “The Ismaili Equation”: http://www.bcbusinessonline.ca/node/283

    Thanks and best,

    John Bucher
    Digital Editor, BCBusiness

  4. Dr.Pankaj Pandya said,

    I am trying to locate an old friend of mine – Ms.Shameen Nanji (married name I think), originally from Nairobi (Kenya). She emigrated to Canada during the time of Idi Amin exodus. Her maiden surname was Merali and the family used to have an Ice Cream Parlour in Nairobi. I had last contact with her sometime in 1973. I think it was Toronto that she had emigrated to.

    I would be grateful for any help to contact her

  5. zaibunisabandalijaffer said,

    I am looking fgor my friend Bhanumati from Mengo (rt sp hope so) old kampaka secondary school
    I last saw her in l968

  6. zaibunisabandalijaffer said,

    my grand son Jamil sent the above message

  7. aka said,

    what a joke some these so called ismailai i am in the mortgage finance community small firm 35yrs these ismailsi some are are disgrace if you really know what goes on behind the scenes so what if they donate monies its al show .

    They should be spirtually inclined and not materiall obssesd with this worl they just dont get it and dont

  8. aka said,

    what a joke some these so called Ismaili i am in the mortgage finance community small firm 35yrs these Ismaili’s some are are disgrace if you really know what goes on behind the scenes so what if they donate monies its ALL show .

    They should be spiritually inclined and not materially obsesses with this world they just don’t get it and don’t edit it .

    they need a lesson in reality , losers ouf our community

  9. aka said,

    Do they even know the MHI for whom he really is esoteric form batin, they need a real life real person experience , I feel sory for them hereafter

  10. ziarat begum said,

    I AM AN ISMAILI WOMEN FROM NORTH OF PAKISTAN AND WORKING IN A HIGHER SENCONDARY SCHOOL FOR LAST 10 YAEARS AS A LIBRARIAN.I AM REQUESTING YOU THAT PLEAS HELP ME TO GIET A JOB IN CANADA.MOLA HAZIR IMAM KEY WASTEY
    WITH BEST WISHES

  11. Kyindraet said,

    you don’t put money into your hotels, you don’t care about anything take ownership of your name at least, people don’t want to stay at your hotels you are cheaper then the Jews you put down, you don’t put money into the hotels for renovating yet you buy mobre,, you don’t care about keeping up to the worlds standards. Go back to your berber roots, rent out tents with outdoor bathrooms bastard child

    • Vancouverite said,

      What a racist!

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