A sole practitioner has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for a “catalogue of proven breaches” of the rules which “amounted to a masterclass in failure to comply with the basic requirements of practice as a solicitor”.
The tribunal described conveyancing fees of £28,000, charged by Rajesh Babajee for the sale of a property for £155,000, as “incredible and unrealistic”.
The SDT went on: “In any event, there was nothing to suggest that even if the property had been difficult to market, there were sufficiently complex legal issues which would justify costs as large as £28,000.
“There was no doubt, therefore, that the respondent had no entitlement to the sum of £28,000 in relation to his costs.
“Indeed, as there was nothing to suggest a proper bill of costs had been delivered, the respondent was not entitled to use any of the funds for his own benefit.”
The SDT heard in SRA v Babajee (case no. 11445-2015) that Mr Babajee was born in 1970, admitted to the roll of solicitors in 2006, and his last known address was in Ilford, Essex. It was understood that he was now living overseas.
He had worked as a sole practitioner at Benn Cameron Solicitors in Tooting, south London, and later at Lambeth Solicitors in Brixton.
The tribunal said Benn Cameron closed in 2009 and it was understood that Mr Babajee left Lambeth Solicitors in 2012, when the firm became a partnership.
The SRA made 12 allegations against Mr Babajee, nine of which were upheld by the tribunal. The most serious of these was that he had misappropriated clients’ monies.
The SDT said this allegation related to his use of money paid to him following the closure of Benn Cameron Solicitors, in respect of the sale by Mr C of his property.
The tribunal accepted that £110,000 was sent to Mr C by the solicitor, leaving a balance of £45,000, which it said had been “misappropriated and utilised improperly”.
The remaining eight allegations upheld by the SDT included four relating to breaches of the Accounts Rules, failing to safeguard records and documents, failing to deliver an accountant’s report and purporting to carry on practice as a solicitor when he was not entitled to.
The SRA also alleged dishonesty in respect of the allegation of misappropriating client money. The SDT found this proved “to the highest standard”.
Mr Babajee was not present at the tribunal and there were no submissions in mitigation. The SDT said that the “usual sanction” for dishonesty was striking off the roll.
“Indeed, the overall catalogue of proven breaches amounted to a masterclass in failure to comply with the basic requirements of practice as a solicitor. The breaches of the Accounts Rules were in themselves so serious that even without the finding of dishonesty an order striking off the respondent might well have been appropriate.”
The SDT ordered that Mr Babajee be struck off the roll and ordered to pay costs of £34,800.