Solicitor who faked SRA email to help trainee qualify is struck off

Visa: Problem led to misconduct

A solicitor has been struck off for dishonestly creating a false email that he sent to a law firm supervising his wife’s training contract, purporting to be from a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) authorisation officer.

Andrei Liakhov claimed its purpose was to break a logjam preventing his wife (called AP in the ruling) from completing her training and being admitted to the solicitors’ roll when a UK work visa was refused.

Mr Liakhov, who was born in 1961 and qualified in 2006, was and is a partner in the London office of a Ukrainian law firm, Sayenko Kharenko. He had worked there since 2010 and as such was subject to the SRA’s overseas rules.

He admitted sending the false email in July 2015 to the law firm (known only as J Ltd) running AP’s training contract, which hit a major snag when AP – who was based in Ukraine – was unable to get a visa for the UK to complete her training.

The false email, which reproduced identifying information sent in a genuine message from the SRA, said: “I can confirm that we have updated our records to show that [AP] completed a training contract with [J Ltd]. The formal visa requirement waiver letter will be issued in due course to [J Ltd]. I can confirm that she satisfied all other training requirements.”

Admitting the allegations, Mr Liakhov wrote: “I apologise for an ill-conceived attempt to speed up [AP’s] application which for a variety of reasons was taking an unusually long time. No real harm was really intended.”

He later sought to explain: “It was done as a desperate attempt to restart [AP’s] admission process which at that time was stalling.”

He further claimed it reflected telephone discussions he had with the SRA and the Law Society. Both organisations denied this was the case.

Mr Liakhov claimed the false email had been “designed to provoke” a conference call that would resolve the question of whether his wife’s physical presence was required to complete the training contract, but to no effect.

Dismissing the argument, the tribunal recorded it was satisfied he had falsely represented it as a true email when it was not, and that in doing so he had acted dishonesty.

It continued: “The respondent had been trying to engineer an outcome for AP which would allow her to complete her training contract with J Ltd and ultimately be admitted to the roll of solicitors in England.

“He knew there had been issues with her visa arrangements and this had had an effect on her ability to complete her training contract with J Ltd.

“He was an experienced solicitor who had made a conscious decision to create a false email and then send it to J Ltd indicating it was genuine.”

Deciding sanction, the tribunal said the misconduct could have led to AP qualifying as a solicitor “on the wrong basis”, although in the end it did not.

But it found the misconduct had been planned, was “serious”, and that Mr Liakhov had “displayed a lack of insight” into his actions. It decided that only striking off was appropriate.

He was also ordered to pay costs of £7,122.

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