Two partners of former Harrogate firm Abode Solicitors have been fined by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Abode Solicitors traded as Arc Property Solicitors and as Action Conveyancing, was based in Harrogate and had an office in London.
Richard Chan and Rajob Ali were fined £15,000 each by the Tribunal following a prosecution brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SDT found that they had:
- not acted in the best interests of their clients
- not provided a proper standard of service
- failed to act in a way that maintains the trust the public has in solicitors and the provision of legal services
- failed to run their business effectively and failed to protect client money and assets.
The SDT heard on Wednesday 24 September 2014 how Mr Chan and Mr Ali operated various stamp duty land tax avoidance schemes for house buyers. They advised clients on the avoidance scheme through their own separate Seychelles-based business, which took a commission.
The Tribunal found the pair liable for twenty breaches, which included failing to act in the best interests of clients, acting where there was a conflict or significant risk of conflict between clients, numerous Accounts Rules breaches and failing to comply with undertakings.
The Tribunal decided the SRA did not prove Mr Chan and Mr Ali acted without integrity, nor that they allowed their independence to be compromised, nor that they acted in transactions which were dubious. As well as fining Mr Chan and Mr Ali £15,000, the tribunal ordered them to be jointly liable for costs, which have yet to be agreed.
The SRA closed down Abode Solicitors on 7 October, 2013.
Mr Chan and Mr Ali have 21 days from the publication of the SDT’s written judgment to appeal.