Exclusive: Axiom Ince director drops challenge to SRA intervention

Bennett: Mr Mistry maintains his innocence

One of the three Axiom Ince directors whose individual practices were shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has dropped his High Court challenge to the decision, Legal Futures can reveal.

Shyam Mistry, who was the firm’s head of personal injury and medical negligence, maintains his innocence.

The first sign of Axiom Ince’s troubles came in mid-August, when the SRA intervened in the individual practices of Axiom Ince chief executive Pragnesh Modhwadia, Mr Mistry and head of property Idnan Liaqat.

As a result, their practising certificates were automatically suspended.

While the SRA said all three were suspected of rule breaches, it was only with Mr Modhwadia – the sole owner of Axiom Ince – that it said there was “reason to suspect dishonesty” as well.

A £66m shortfall in Axiom Ince’s client account has since emerged, with the SRA shutting down the firm in October and the Serious Fraud Office launching a probe last month.

There has only ever been one (briefly) successful High Court challenge to an SRA intervention, back in 2005, and that was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Mistry’s challenge was awaiting directions but he has now decided to drop it, according to his solicitor, Paul Bennett, a partner at Bennett Briegal, which specialises in acting for law firms.

Mr Bennett said: “The Axiom Ince fallout has impacted on employed professionals who have experienced reputational damage, suppliers and most importantly the clients of the firm.

“The profession is seemingly at risk due to the potential Compensation Fund implications of a sole shareholder being permitted, by the regulatory regime, to expand significantly without any meaningful regulatory oversight by acquisition.

“Given the current circumstances of the dual Axiom Ince investigations, specifically the involvement of the Serious Fraud Office and the SRA, Mr Mistry has very reluctantly taken the decision to withdraw his application to the High Court challenging the SRA intervention into his practising certificate.

“It is clear that investigation is still in its infancy and the difficult decision was made by him to withdraw his challenge to the intervention and to contest the approach of the SRA in due course in another forum.”

This forum would be the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal if the regulator were to prosecute him.

Mr Bennett added: “Mr Mistry maintains his innocence of any financial wrongdoing and has been clear with the SRA since the start of this matter that he had no financial interest or benefit from the actions of others.

“Mr Mistry will continue to seek to clear his name and to be permitted to return to the profession in due course.”

The SRA had no comment.

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