A Vancouver woman is facing fraud charges after she was arrested and charged with masterminding a $40 million Ponzi scheme that is rumored to be the largest Ponzi scheme in Canadian history. Rashida Samji – also known as Rashida Makalai – was charged with 28 counts of fraud and theft related to approximtely $17 million in losses suffered by 14 investors between 2006 and 2012, and police believe the charges are part of a much larger fraud with significantly higher losses.
Beginning as early as 2003, Samji, a former Vancouver notary, allegedly solicited investor funds through her company, Samji & Assoc. Holdings Inc. Investors were told that their funds would be safe in Samji’s notary trust accounts at several financial institutions, including Toronto-Dominion Bank (“TD Bank”). These funds would then purportedly be used as collateral for investments by Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna, British Columbia. In return, investors were promised hefty annual returns ranging from 12% to 30%. In addition to Samji’s solicitation efforts, a former financial planner at Coast Capital Savings, Arvin Patel, also helped recruit approximately 90 investors to the scheme. In total, more than $80 million is estimated to have flowed into Samji’s trust accounts.
However, rather than keep investor funds in notary trust accounts, Samji is alleged to have deposited investor funds into her own personal bank accounts, which she then used to make fictitious interest payments to existing investors – a hallmark of a Ponzi scheme. None of the alleged wineries linked to the scheme claimed to have any knowledge of Samji, and authorities filed civil charges against Samji in 2012 after an investigation.
Samji has since posted a $100,000 bail, and is subject to a variety of bail conditions while the case remains pending.