May 29, 2019 4:10 pm
Updated: May 29, 2019 4:51 pm

BerMax Caffe owners deny allegations they staged anti-Semitic hate crime

Winnipeg Police sit outside BerMax Caffe

Michael Draven/ Global News
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A lawyer for one of three family members accused of staging an anti-Semitic attack at their Winnipeg cafe says the hate crime was no hoax.

The owners of BerMax Caffe and Bistro appeared in court for the first time since being charged.

Oxana, her husband Alexander and their son Maxim Berent were quiet and solemn as they took their turn in court today.

Their cafe was allegedly robbed, the interior trashed and the walls spray-painted with anti-Semitic graffiti on April 18, although investigators now say that was all staged by the owners.

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They denied the accusations after all three were charged with public mischief.

Oxana is the only family member to have a lawyer while the other two remain unrepresented. Martin Glazer is representing her and said in situations like this it’s best for each person to have their own lawyer.

“I think its important that the public not rush the judgement. As all of you media people know there’s a big difference between an accusation and a conviction,” he said.

“I’ve been doing this for 37 years and this is the first time I’ve encountered a case such as this. It’s very rare, very rare. On behalf of my client, she’s not the type of person to do this. She says it’s all false.”

READ MORE: Court documents show BerMax Caffe owners were in financial trouble

Court documents show the family was facing financial difficulties.

In August, the court ruled in favour of BDC against the Berents and ordered Oxana and Alexander to pay the bank $114,147.47.

There is no indication that payment has been made.

In April, the Royal Bank of Canada filed a statement of claim against the Berents’ son Maxim, saying he owes $43,628.94 in credit card debt, plus interest and legal costs.

Last year, BerMax Design Limited, owned by the Berent family, was taken to court by the Business Development Bank.

The bank alleged it loaned $150,000 to the company in 2014, and four years later, there was more than $100,000 outstanding.

READ MORE: False reports of hate crimes few and far between, says expert

A search warrant document obtained by Global News shows the Winnipeg Police Service Major Crimes Unit wanted the wifi routers of the cafe two weeks after the alleged robbery.

Glazer says there’s no motive for his client to fake the attack and that she was physically injured.

“She was knocked out. According to the information I have, it was noted that she was in the ambulance and couldn’t even speak. She was in shock, she was traumatized and she was shaking and had a look of fear on her face. Her blouse was torn,” he said.

“She was taken to hospital by an ambulance where she underwent treatment including a CT scan and x-rays. So we expect the medical evidence will show this was genuine.

“This was not a hoax. You can’t fake symptoms like that. We expect to get all the blood pressure readings that should confirm she was the victim of an attack.”

The case will be appearing in court again on June 26 after which Glazer says lawyers will be able to gather police files and have discussions with the Crown prosecutors.

Glazer also gave media a full statement below:

“I am proud to say that in Manitoba we have excellent judges and one of them will decide this case, not the media and not those in our community who either refuse or are unable to presume Oxana Berent is innocent.

The charge is merely an accusation that remains unproven. I wish to remind the public that an accusation is not a conviction. It is important not to rush to judgment and to let the judicial system proceed to achieve justice.

Legal history has shown how often people who are accused of a crime end up being found not guilty at trial. The law says that the benefit of the doubt belongs to anyone accused of a crime. All I ask is that the public respect the rule of law and not judge this case before all of the facts have been heard and decided by a judge.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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