An immigration solicitor secretly recorded by the BBC advising an undercover journalist how to obtain “fraudulent” evidence for a visa application has been struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said that, as well as two failed judicial reviews of the SDT in the High Court and unsuccessful application to appeal to the Court of Appeal, Asif Salam had made “at least” 17 interlocutory applications in his tribunal proceedings.
During the disciplinary hearing itself, in which Mr Salam – who qualified in 2007 – represented himself, he made “at least” five applications, one of them resulting in the hearing being adjourned part heard on the grounds of his ill health.
The SDT said that it was “plain” from the BBC recordings, which featured in the File on Four radio documentary Breaking into Britain, that Mr Salam introduced the undercover reporter, Client A, to an ‘accountant’ to substantiate a “fictitious second job” so that Client A met the financial threshold requirements for a spousal visa application.
During the course of two meetings, Mr Salam “repeatedly referred to the ‘proper’ approach to spousal visa applications and the ‘dodgy’ route that he was suggesting”.
The tribunal rejected Mr Salam’s various defences “in their entirety as inconsistent, totally implausible and disingenuous”.
The SDT went on: “On the contrary, Mr Salam’s moral compass appeared at times to the tribunal to have been pointing in entirely the wrong direction.
“Mr Salam’s contention that he was play-acting was at odds with the ebb and flow of his interactions with Client A which appeared natural and authentic. The suggestion that he was conducting research was not remotely plausible, generally asserted and ridiculous.
“Mr Salam’s attacks on the accuracy of the recordings were also considered to be without foundation.”
The solicitor’s “outlandish suggestion” that he was the victim of conspiracy between the BBC, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the UK government was an “ill-disguised and misconceived attempt to deflect attention away from his misconduct”.
Other allegations about the SRA’s conduct were “pugnacious but quite unsubstantiated”.
Rejecting a judicial review application from Mr Salam, the High Court ruled in May last year that the SDT was right not to order the SRA to seek information from the BBC, including the identity of the undercover reporter.
The court had already rejected Mr Salam’s applications the previous year for a summons in respect of a BBC litigation lawyer and for judicial review to challenge the decisions of the SDT to certify the disciplinary case against him and refuse to grant a stay.
In refusing permission to appeal the second decision, Lord Justice Kerr said Mr Salam “has sought to challenge every single decision made against him, regardless of the nature of decision, and regardless of the case management nature of those decisions”.
He added: “He has treated each hearing and each decision as if it were a state trial. He has failed to consider, let alone apply, the applicable principles.”
Meanwhile, the SDT said there had been five case management hearings during the two and a half years of his disciplinary proceedings and the SRA had instructed a medical expert to examine the solicitor after he raised health concerns.
The SDT said that, after it rejected a submission of ‘no case to answer’ from Mr Salam, he “elected not to give evidence” on the allegations against him, while “at all times” denying that he had acted dishonestly.
The tribunal found that he had acted dishonestly in introducing Client A to an accountant so she could obtain false documentation to support a visa application. The SDT stressed that it did not draw an adverse inference from Mr Salam’s decision not to testify.
It held too that, given the circumstances of the proceedings and the number of applications made by Mr Salam, the SRA should be entitled to its full claim for costs of £68,300.