B.C. judge overturns marriage annulment after finding woman posing as ex-wife was ‘impostor’

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge in Kamloops overturned a marriage annulment after finding the woman who appeared before him to consent to the order was an “impostor”.

In a decision he said was necessary – in part – to prevent a “miscarriage of justice”, Judge Dennis Hori last week overturned an order he made nearly a year ago after a request for two people who identified themselves via a “remote audio connection”. like Warren and Gina Zant.

According decisionthe real Gina Zant “became distraught” when told of the cancellation – which would have meant losing interest in her ex-husband’s pension plan.

“I am unable to determine, based on the evidence available to me, who actually appeared at the [annulment] candidate running under the name of Gina Elizabeth Zant. However, I am convinced that anyone who attended the phone call on that date was an impostor,” Hori wrote.

“I am satisfied that where an impostor appears to an application by presenting himself as a party, without the consent of the actual party, there are sufficient grounds to set aside the orders made on the application.”

Marriage “void and avoided”, according to the correspondence

Hori’s decision follows an unusual set of circumstances that saw the judge reject “most, if not all” of Warren Zant’s representations in court – not the least of which was a claim that Zant himself was mentally incompetent.

According to the ruling, Warren Zant married the real Gina Zant in the tropical Cook Islands on November 27, 1999.

Warren Zant and Gina Zant married in 1999 in the Cook Islands, but separated two decades later. (AFP/Getty Images)

They separated nearly two decades later, filing a separation agreement in which they agreed that Gina Zant would receive survivor benefits under Warren Zant’s operations engineers pension plan.

The ongoing series of proceedings was launched last year when Warren Zant asked the court for an order annulling the marriage and removing Gina Zant “from being a beneficiary under [his] pension and benefit plans.

The request included correspondence from the Cook Islands stating that the marriage was “null and void”.

A document bearing the signature “Gina E. Zant” was also filed with the court – consenting to the orders Warren Zant was seeking.

“I was fully aware that our wedding in the Cook Islands [was] not legally binding,” the document read.

Based on this information and the assurances of the two people who appeared by telephone as Warren and Gina Zant, Hori granted the rescission, as well as the order terminating Gina Zant’s right to be the beneficiary of Warren Zant’s pension.

True ex-wife “ignoring any legal proceedings”

It was November 24, 2021.

Warren Zant sent a copy of the cancellation order to the Operating Engineers Pension Plan two months later.

Then the pension plan administrator of the Operations Engineers’ Pension Scheme called the real Gina Zant – who said she was ‘not aware of any legal proceedings’.

A number of documents filed in support of Warren Zant’s marriage annulment petition have come under scrutiny. A Cook Islands Marriages, Births and Deaths Registrar said the documents attributed to him were a “fraud”. (Shutterstock)

According to Hori’s ruling, a number of different people claiming to represent Zant have since appeared in a series of hearings with the real Gina Zant and a pension plan attorney.

Along the way, the documents supporting Warren Zant’s initial cancellation request have come under scrutiny.

They include emails allegedly written by a Cook Islands official claiming that according to the South Pacific nation’s laws: “this marriage is a fraud or totally void, it does not exist”.

The country’s chief birth, death and marriage registry official emailed the real Gina Zant to say the correspondence attributed to her was “fraudulent documents that you don’t have [receive] of me.”

Hori also concluded that the person before whom Warren Zant lent his affidavits in Chetumal, Mexico, was not authorized to commission affidavits for use in Canada.

Enrique Alejandro Alonso Serrato was supposed to be “a commissioner in charge of taking affidavits for the Canadian Embassy”.

But he was not on any list of lawyers and notaries public on the government website, and the embassy confirmed to pensions staff that not only did they not employ Serrato, but they did not have a office in Chetumal.

Ex-husband not mentally incompetent, judge says

Acting on her own behalf, the real Gina Zant claimed she was “shocked” to learn that her marriage had been called off and her interest in Warren Zant’s pension had been cancelled.

“I have given Warren Zant’s representatives the opportunity to cross-examine Gina Zant,” Hori wrote.

“However, they didn’t.”

An image of a white block building.  The lettering reads
A BC Supreme Court judge in Kamloops overturned an earlier order annulling a marriage. He also refused to declare the man who made the request mentally incompetent. (Radio Canada)

Based on these facts, Hori rescinded his previous rescission order.

Judge also denied Warren Zant’s request for an order ‘upholding Warren Thomas Zant’s legal incompetence due to his mental health’ because it was based on ‘unreliable’ evidence from witnesses ‘lacking credibility’ .

Hori said he was “not prepared to accept that Warren Zant was mentally incompetent” – pointing out that if Zant had been mentally incompetent he could not have applied for the restraining order in the first place.

Case was ‘very troubling’: pension plan lawyer

David Paul, the lawyer who represented the pension scheme, said the case was “very troubling”.

He said his client and the real Gina Zant were ‘very happy’ with Hori’s decision, but the situation appears to be someone taking advantage of the extraordinary measures the courts have taken to ensure access to justice during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, while these procedures were overwhelmingly successful, they also allowed some malicious people to use the shortcomings of these remote programs for nefarious purposes,” he said.

“I think this case and other cases that have come before the courts will give the legal profession a reason to consider how we can further improve our system to prevent cases like this in the future.”

The parties will be back in court in January when Paul announces he will be seeking costs.

“I submit that the plaintiff faces personal repercussions for this type of conduct,” he said.

“I think there also needs to be a strong message to like-minded people that our justice system is based on principles of honesty and that there are serious consequences for fraudulent conduct.”

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