Toronto Sun

August 18, 2002

Dishonesty pays

Judge awards scheming wife $500Gs

By KEVIN MARTIN -- Sun Media
Toronto Sun

CALGARY -- A woman whose scheme to hide cash from the taxman and her ex-husband backfired when her co-conspirators cheated her will get the money back, a judge has ruled.

In a written decision released last week, Justice Ged Hawco said the owners of Bar C Ranch and Cattle Co. Ltd. owe Antoinette Merritt $500,000 plus interest.

That's how much Merritt turned over to since-deceased Peter Van Nieuwstadt and his partner, Jan Klijn, in 1997 in an investment scheme to hide money she had secreted in a Swiss bank account.

The cash had accumulated from a $200,000 US gift she received in 1979 from a former lover -- a windfall she kept secret "for obvious reasons" from her husband, Hawco noted.

The Calgary judge said even though Merritt acted dishonestly in trying to fleece Revenue Canada and her ex-husband during their divorce, that didn't exonerate her partners.

"None of the parties to this litigation engender much sympathy," Hawco wrote.

"Ms Merritt entered into a fraudulent scheme to evade taxes and avoid paying her husband under a matrimonial property settlement," he noted.

"Messrs Van Nieuwstadt and Klijn were parties to that but went a step further -- they then tried to defraud Ms Merritt and lied and cheated to do so," Hawco said.

Hawco said Klijn and Van Nieuwstadt's estate could not rely on Merritt's dishonesty to free them of their debt to her.

"Ms Merritt was pathetically childlike in her trust of Mr. Van Nieuwstadt," Hawco said.

"He was aware of that and he used that to his benefit and to her detriment, as did his associate, Mr. Klijn."

Copyright © 2002, Canoe, a division of Netgraphe Inc.