Life / Health

Ontario doctor's licence suspended after accepting $700K in loans from patients

TORONTO — An Ontario doctor's licence has been suspended after he solicited and accepted more than $700,000 in loans from two patients, most of which he has failed to repay, according to a penalty decision released by the doctors' regulatory body.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons has ruled that Dr. Mirza Rajabali Virani, 67, may not practise medicine for the next eight months.

In its penalty decision, the college's disciplinary committee said that the Markham, Ont., doctor behaved in a "disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional" manner.

The disciplinary committee originally heard Virani's case in June. After finding him guilty of professional misconduct, the penalty committee decided on the eight-month licence suspension Wednesday.

Virani's patients can't be identified because of a publication ban, but the penalty decision said they trusted their doctor, respected him and thought of him as successful and important.

According to the decision, Virani learned about his patients' financial situations over the course of their medical appointments, and then presented them with opportunities to invest with him through a series of loans.

The first patient loaned Virani more than $500,000 between 2006 and 2007, according to the decision. The money came out of his line of credit. 

The decision said that Virani promised a quick return on the patient's investment, including profits of more than $30,000 in one month. But in all, the doctor repaid a little under $130,000 of that patient's loans.

The decision also said Virani borrowed several hundred thousand dollars from a second patient, who also got the money from his line of credit. That patient eventually took Virani to court and the doctor was ordered to repay the loan, but never did.

Another decision by the college, this one from Virani's initial disciplinary hearing in June, explained that the second patient lost the property he owned for his business, and had to move to a rented facility. He said this was because of interest payments he had to make on the loans.

The patient said in a victim impact statement that he was hospitalized for "nervous breakdowns" as a result of the financial losses.

In 2011, four years after the last loans were made, Virani filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy will expire in 2017, at which point he'll have repaid $42,000 of the $448,000 he still owes to the first patient. He'll have repaid $27,000 of $289,000 he owes the second patient.

During cross examination during the initial hearing, Virani said he has no plans to repay the rest of his debts.

In addition to the licence suspension, the disciplinary committee ruled Virani must take the next available ethics course and pay $5,000 to the college.

The committee is part of a regulatory body and its decisions don't require the same level of scrutiny as a criminal court.

York Region Police said Virani is not currently facing any charges.