News
5 min

Von Pfahlenburg suspended from practicing law

Court documents show former VPS treasurer allegedly misrepresented himself

SUSPENDED. Christiane Von Pfahlenburg, suspended from practicing law by the BC Supreme Court May 5, says he did not misrepresent himself as a lawyer. Credit: Matt Mills photo

Christiane Von Pfahlenburg — who served briefly on the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) as both treasurer and secretary after suggesting the entire board be dissolved and a new board re-elected in 2007 — has been suspended from practicing law at the order of a BC Supreme Court judge.

The Law Society of BC asked for the court judgment after Von Pfahlenburg allegedly continued to practice law without a license.

Sworn documents obtained from BC Supreme Court show Von Pfahlenburg, who also goes by the names Walther Kay Diener and Auguste Christiane Frederich Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg, has a history that involves a questionable real estate transaction, jewelry sales and alleged misrepresentations of himself as a lawyer, an attorney and an attorney-at-law.

Von Pfahlenburg was secretary-treasurer of the Pride board until he resigned Apr 10, 2007, citing “weak leadership… a lack of clear constructive vision for the society, the fractured nature of the Board and the absence of administrative and procedural governance.”

In an Oct 18, 2007 affidavit, VPS director Ray Lam says he met with Von Pfahlenburg and now-former VPS directors Todd Brisbin and Sadie Kuehn on Jan 21, 2007.

Von Pfahlenburg said he was a lawyer, Lam swears in his affidavit.

Lam says Von Pfahlenburg told him there were problems with the Pride Society’s corporate registry filings dating back to 2004.

Lam says Von Pfahlenburg said the situation could be corrected by dissolving the board and reverting to the 2004 board pending a new election.

The next day, board members from 2004-2006 met at The Sandman Inn.

Von Pfahlenburg attended.

Then-treasurer Carol O’Dell asked Von Pfahlenburg for his credentials.

“The respondent Von Pfahlenburg responded to Ms O’Dell’s request by saying he graduated from a law school in West Germany, that he was an attorney-at-law and that he is able to practice in British Columbia,” Lam says in his affidavit.

The board opted to dissolve itself at the Jan 22, 2007 meeting, and called a special general meeting for Mar 10, where a new board was elected.

There, Brisbin nominated Von Pfahlenburg for secretary and treasurer.

Lam says Von Pfahlenburg then told the meeting he was a forensic tax consultant and corporate compliance officer. “Von Pfahlenburg did not say anything about being a lawyer or an attorney in his speech on that occasion,” Lam says.

In an affidavit dated Jan 21, 2008, Brisbin says Von Pfahlenburg said he was not a licensed lawyer in BC.

But on May 8, 2006, the Law Society of BC issued a release saying Auguste Christiane Frederich Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg, also known as Christiane Von Pfahlenburg, formerly Walther Kay Diener, of Vancouver, BC, was providing a variety of legal services for a fee.

In documents filed in court Jan 17, the Law Society asked that Von Pfahlenburg be found in contempt of a Jan 31, 2006 court order preventing him from representing himself as a lawyer, a member of the Law Society or a practitioner of foreign law.

The Law Society hired a private investigator, David Canning, to look into Von Pfahlenburg.

An Aug 31, 2005 affidavit from Canning says he went to the address of Argento Metals Compagnie Ltd to find Von Pfahlenburg on Nov 26, 2004. He left a message under the Burrard St office door.

That message was returned by Herman Nilsson, who later sat briefly on the Pride Society board until he resigned May 26, 2008. A meeting was set up with Canning, Nilsson and Von Pfahlenburg for Nov 29, 2004.

Canning presented himself as a businessman called David Johnson who was facing a divorce and wanted to protect his shares in his company in the divorce.

Canning says they talked about share-transfer certificates.

Canning then asked the pair if they were familiar with end-user certificates.

He says Von Pfahlenburg retrieved some certificates for diamonds. “I told him this was not what I was talking about,” Canning says in his affidavit. “I said I was talking about export certificates for shipping goods outside the country. I asked them if they knew what a ‘stinger’ was.

“Von Pfahlenburg then asked me if this was for ‘military stuff,'” Canning says.

A Stinger is a missile fired from a shoulder launcher.

Canning then said he wasn’t sure if Von Pfahlenburg and Nilsson were the right people to talk to but received assurances from Von Pfahlenburg that he was bound by client confidentiality “just like a lawyer or an accountant.”

“There followed a discussion about End User Certificates with Von Pfahlenburg eventually saying that he knew someone who could help,” Canning says in his affidavit.

The Law Society was also contacted by lawyer Shirley Kay, of the BC attorney general’s office, who says she received a call from Von Pfahlenburg on Jun 29, 2006.

In an Oct 24, 2007 affidavit, Kay says Von Pfahlenburg represented himself as an attorney at law.

Curious because the phrase is one used in the US and not BC, Kay says she checked the Law Society website.

“The respondent Von Pfahlenburg was not listed as a lawyer registered with the Law Society,” Kay says in her affidavit.

In a Jan 21, 2008 affidavit, Von Pfahlenburg denies the conversation took place.

VPS president John Boychuk says Von Pfahlenburg identified himself to him as a lawyer on Jan 19, 2007.

But Von Pfahlenburg says he met Lam, not Boychuk, on Jan 19 and told Lam that he was not a lawyer. He then met Boychuk the next day and told him the same. Two days later, Von Pfahlenburg told the special general meeting he was “not legal counsel.”

Boychuk’s Oct 18, 2007 affidavit says Von Pfahlenburg told him he was appointed by the provincial Corporate Registry to correct the Pride Society’s filing problems.

Boychuk called the registry and was told this was not the case.

A further affidavit, this one also dated Oct 18, 2007 and from former Pride director Susan Burzynski, says Brisbin told her on Jan 18, 2007 she was not a director of the board according to the filed records.

She says minutes later, Von Pfahlenburg called to say he expected her resignation with copies to Brisbin and former director Mischa Irwin.

Burzynski hung up on him.

She says she then called Brisbin who said Von Pfahlenburg “was acting on his behalf as his legal counsel.”

Von Pfahlenburg denies the allegation in his Jan 21, 2008 affidavit.

He says he told Brisbin he could not act in that capacity “as a result of my licences.”

Court documents show Von Pfahlenburg’s dealings extend beyond the Pride and Law societies.

The Law Society also presented affidavits from Muriel Jean Walsof of Langley.

Walsof says she knew Von Pfahlenburg as Diener, having met him in 1994. They shared a common interest in jewelry and she bought some pieces from him through his company, Imperial Diamond.

In 1997, Walsof went with Diener to Kelowna where she owned some property.

In the late 1990s, she also went with Diener to England where she was going to purchase her sister’s house.

On that trip, they went to Paris where Diener produced an offer from someone he identified as his boss, “His Most Serene Highness, Auguste Christiane Frederich Prince Von Polen, Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg,” to buy the Kelowna property for $140,000.

Diener then arranged the sale and the land transfer.

But Walsof says she didn’t receive the proceeds from that sale.

On investigating, she learned that the property had been registered to Von Pfahlenburg, whom she discovered was the same person as Diener.

Walsof eventually received $19,000 for her property, according to her affidavit.

In a Mar 23, 2000 affidavit, Diener swears he gave Walsof almost $40,000 for the property. He also claims he represented Auguste Christiane Frederich Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg in the transaction.