A B.C. Supreme Court judge in Kamloops has cancelled a marriage annulment after concluding that the woman who appeared earlier than him to consent to the order was an “imposter.”
In a ruling he mentioned was needed — partially — to stop a “miscarriage of justice,” Justice Dennis Hori final week put aside an order he granted virtually a yr in the past after an utility by two individuals who recognized themselves through “distant audio connection” as Warren and Gina Zant.
According to the choice, the actual Gina Zant “grew to become distraught” when she was advised in regards to the annulment — which might have meant the lack of her curiosity in her ex-husband’s pension plan.
“I’m unable to find out, on the idea of the proof earlier than me, who really appeared on the [annulment] utility representing herself as Gina Elizabeth Zant. However, I’m happy that whoever attended by phone on that date was an imposter,” Hori wrote.
“I’m happy that the place an imposter seems at an utility representing themselves as a celebration, with out the consent of the particular occasion, there may be ample grounds to put aside the orders made on the utility.”
Marriage ‘null and keep away from’, in keeping with correspondence
Hori’s ruling follows an uncommon set of circumstances that noticed the judge reject “most, if not all” of Warren Zant’s representations to the court docket — not least of which was a declare Zant himself was mentally incompetent.
According to the choice, Warren Zant married the actual Gina Zant within the tropical Cook Islands on Nov. 27, 1999.
They break up almost 20 years later, submitting a separation settlement during which they agreed Gina Zant would obtain survivor advantages below Warren Zant’s Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan.
The present set of proceedings was set in movement final yr when Warren Zant utilized to the court docket for an order annulling the marriage and eradicating Gina Zant “from being a beneficiary below [his] pension and advantages plans.”
The utility included correspondence from the Cook Islands stating that the marriage was “null and void.”
A doc bearing the signature “Gina E. Zant” was additionally filed with the court docket — consenting to the orders Warren Zant was looking for.
“I was absolutely conscious that our marriage within the Cook Islands [was] not legally binding,” the doc learn.
Based on that info and the assurances of the 2 individuals who appeared by phone as Warren and Gina Zant, Hori granted the annulment, as properly as the order ending Gina Zant’s proper to be Warren Zant’s pension beneficiary.
Real ex-wife ‘unaware of any court docket proceedings’
That was Nov. 24, 2021.
Warren Zant despatched a replica of the annulment order to the Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan two months later.
Then the administrator of the Operating Engineers’ Pension Plan pension plan referred to as the actual Gina Zant — who mentioned she “was unaware of any court docket proceedings.”
According to Hori’s resolution, quite a few completely different individuals purporting to signify Zant have since appeared at a sequence of hearings together with the actual Gina Zant and a pension plan lawyer.
Along the best way, paperwork supporting Warren Zant’s authentic annulment utility have come below scrutiny.
They embrace emails purportedly written by an official within the Cook Islands claiming that in keeping with the South Pacific nation’s legal guidelines: “this marriage is fraud or completely annulled, it doesn’t exist.”
The nation’s senior registry supervisor for births, deaths and marriages emailed the actual Gina Zant to say the correspondence ascribed to her was “fraud paperwork which you didn’t [receive] from me.”
Hori additionally concluded the individual earlier than whom Warren Zant swore his affidavits in Chetumal, Mexico was not licensed to fee affidavits to be used in Canada.
Enrique Alejandro Alonso Serrato was speculated to be “a commissioner for taking affidavits for the Canadian embassy.”
But he wasn’t on any record of legal professionals and notary publics on the federal government’s web site, and the embassy confirmed for pension workers that not solely did they not make use of Serrato, they did not have an workplace in Chetumal.
Ex-husband not mentally incompetent, judge guidelines
Acting on her personal behalf, the actual Gina Zant claimed she was “shocked” to study that her marriage had been nullified and her pursuits in Warren Zant’s pension cancelled.
“I gave Warren Zant’s representatives the chance to cross-examine Gina Zant,” Hori wrote.
“However, they didn’t accomplish that.”
Based on these details, Hori put aside his earlier annulment order.
The judge additionally went on to reject Warren Zant’s utility for an order “upholding the authorized incompetence of Warren Thomas Zant because of psychological well being” as a result of it was based mostly on “unreliable” proof from witnesses who “lack credibility.”
Hori mentioned he was “not ready to just accept that Warren Zant is mentally incompetent” — pointing out that if Zant had been mentally incompetent then he could not have sought the order looking for the annulment within the first place.
Case was ‘very troubling’: pension plan lawyer
David Paul, the lawyer who acted for the Pension Plan, mentioned the case was “very troubling.”
He mentioned his consumer and the actual Gina Zant had been “very happy” with Hori’s resolution, however that the state of affairs seems to be somebody profiting from the extraordinary measures courts have gone by way of to make sure entry to justice through the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, whereas these procedures have been overwhelmingly profitable they’ve additionally allowed sure malevolent people to make use of the deficiencies in these distant packages for nefarious functions,” he mentioned.
“I feel this case and different circumstances that come earlier than the courts will give the authorized occupation a cause to take a look at how we are able to even additional enhance our system to stop towards situations like this sooner or later.”
The events will likely be again in court docket in January when Paul says he’ll be making an utility for prices.
“It’s my submission that the claimant must face private repercussions for the sort of conduct,” he mentioned.
“I feel there additionally must be a loud message to like-minded people that our system of justice relies on rules of honesty and that there are critical penalties for fraudulent conduct.”