First Nation in Atlin, B.C., accuses former business head of stealing $540K
The Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, B.C. is suing the former head of its business arms, accusing him of embezzling more than half a million dollars and depositing it into his personal bank account.
In a civil lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 24, the First Nation claims that Peter Kirby, the former president and CEO of Atlin Ltd., and Atlin Power Ltd., misappropriated $540,249 in four separate transactions last July and August.
The First Nation alleges that Kirby then "purportedly" resigned from his posts without notice at the end of August.
The lawsuit states that Kirby did not disclose the payments, all allegedly made to himself, and that they "were not approved by the Board or the Nation."
"Mr. Kirby's conduct was deceitful and amounts to fraud," the claim states.
Kirby has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit and the allegations have yet been tested in court.
Oversaw major hydroelectric project
Kirby became a prominent public figure through his role leading the First Nation's business arm, and the development of the Atlin hydroelectric project. He was sometimes touted as a visionary leader who helped his small First Nation become energy independent.
He was also front-and-centre as the hydro expansion project got off the ground. That project, which would expand the existing two-megawatt hydropower facility in Atlin to a 10.5 megawatt facility, and export the new power to Yukon's energy grid, got an $80-million boost last April from the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
The lawsuit says that the First Nation began a review and investigation of its business entities "in or around" May 2022. It alleges that from then until August, the First Nation asked Kirby for financial records of those businesses, which he had in his possession, and that Kirby produced none.
Then, on Aug. 9, the First Nation says it issued a "Clan Directive," for Kirby "and others" to produce those records, and that Kirby again did not comply.
The claim alleges that less than two weeks after that, on Aug. 22, Kirby secretly moved $500,000 from the bank account of Xeitl LP, one of the First Nation's limited partnerships, into the bank account of Atlin LP.
There was "no legitimate reason" for this transfer, the First Nation alleges.
"Rather, it was made for the improper purpose of facilitating Mr. Kirby's misappropriation of funds from the plaintiffs," the claim states.
The First Nation alleges that Kirby then wrote a cheque from Atlin LP to himself on Aug. 26 for $516,419.16, and deposited into his personal bank account three days later.
Kirby is also accused of making three other improper payments to himself from Atlin LP: $1,265 on July 16, 2022, $5,064 on Aug. 22 and $17,500 on Aug. 29. He allegedly resigned as CEO of the companies on Aug. 29, just after that last payment was made, and then resigned as director and president the next day.
The First Nation says it had no notice of his resignation.
It's asking the court to find Kirby liable for the $549,249 in allegedly misappropriated funds, as well as interest and damages for breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, fraud, negligence, and unjust enrichment.
Nobody from the Taku River Tlingit First Nation could be reached for comment on Friday about the lawsuit.
Kirby could also not be reached.