Accountant involved in massive law firm fraud banned

SRA: Section 43 order imposed

An accountant and former partner of a law firm which became involved in a €100m money laundering operation, has agreed with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) not to work in the profession.

The SRA said Martin Landman, a manager of former north London practice Notable Services LLP, accepted the money into the firm’s client account “without there being sufficient underlying transactions”.

Notable was a legal disciplinary practice, a pre-alternative business structure model that allowed non-lawyers to become minority partners of law firms.

The SRA referred to a High Court ruling last year, in which Mr Landman was ordered to pay back £173,000 following an eight-week trial.

Group Seven and another v Nasir and others [2017] EWHC 2466 (Ch) was the civil side of a fraud case that led to a man dubbed the ‘Pope’s banker’ for his claimed links with the Vatican jailed for 14 years, while a solicitor who was duped into helping him received a six-month suspended sentence.

Buddika Kadurugamuwa was only fined £2,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, a decision the SRA unsuccessfully appealed.

In the civil case, Mr Justice Morgan explained: “The fraud was followed by an attempt to launder the proceeds of the fraud using the client account of [Notable Services].

“The attempt at money laundering was partly successful. Some €15m were paid away by Notable. Some of these monies were recovered but, in the end, only €88m was returned to Allseas which therefore lost about €12m.

The judge commented on the accountant’s evidence: “It is clear that Mr Landman is prepared to tell lies wholesale to the court and to attempt to sustain the lies throughout lengthy cross-examination.”

Morgan J said he was “entitled to take into account the fact that Mr Landman’s persistent lying at this trial shows he has a propensity for dishonesty”.

Though he found Mr Landman not liable for dishonestly assisting a breach of trust, he said the accountant acted dishonestly regarding dozens of transactions on his firm’s client account that laundered the proceeds.

He was liable to the claimants in knowing receipt for his receipt of £170,000 via a Panamanian offshore vehicle, plus a further £3,000 wrongly retained by the accountant.

“An important factor in this assessment is that Mr Landman obtained the £170,000 in return for deliberately and dishonestly breaking the Solicitors Accounts Rules and dishonestly misleading Notable as to his involvement in, or knowledge of, the transactions which led to Notable paying away some €15m on and after 15 November 2011.”

Morgan J said that following the conclusion of the trial, the members of Notable Services LLP appointed an administrator, “on the ground that Notable was, or was likely to become, unable to pay its debts”.

The SRA said Mr Landsman had agreed that his conduct was such that “he should not be involved in a legal practice in any of the ways described in a section 43 order agreed with the SRA”.

Section 43 prevents non-solicitors working for law firms without the SRA’s permission.

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