A Toronto businessman accused of pocketing millions in fraudulent mortgages marketed to Muslims, emptied his accounts and led investigators on “a treasure hunt” to find nearly $2 million in gold bars, a federal prosecutor told a jury Tuesday. Six years later, where the bars have gone remains a mystery for authorities.
Crown attorney Damien Frost made his opening statement at the trial of Omar Kalair, dubbed the “Muslim Madoff” by homeowners who bought into his “Shariah-compliant” mortgages that left them thousands of dollars in the hole.
Kalair, 42, holds a graduate diploma in business, was once admitted to a PhD program in economics, and has spoken at a number of international conferences on Islamic finance — once at Harvard University.
“The case we will present to you is about theft, fraud and money laundering,” Frost told the 12-member jury (five women, seven men) and two alternate members on the first day of the trial.
Gold bought with company’s last dollars: Crown
Prosecutors told a virtually empty courtroom that just days before Kalair’s company, UM Financial, went into receivership, Kalair and Yusuf Panchbhaya, 59, agreed to purchase over $2 million in gold and silver bullion, bought with the last of the company’s money. Panchbhaya was the chairman of a board of religious advisers who issued fatwas sanctioning the businesses mortgages as Islamic.
Kalair arrived alone Tuesday, wearing mostly black with a brown traditional cap, a poppy on the lapel of his jacket. For most of the day, he sat listening intently as the judge instructed the jury, breaking his stoic expression for just a moment looking bemused when a hunched-over Panchbhaya had fallen asleep.