A solicitor who described how she fell in love with the architect of a translation fee fraud – who used her to facilitate it – has accepted that she had to be struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that Babita Attra was working as a criminal legal aid consultant at Carson Kaye when she introduced police station representative Alexandru Major, who also worked as a translator, to the firm.
Approving an agreed outcome between Ms Attra and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that she be struck off, the SDT heard Ms Attra, 41, was in a personal relationship with Mr Major, 35.
In a letter to the SRA last year, Ms Attra said Mr Major, described by the judge at their trial as the “architect” of the fraud, had “used her for her qualifications and to benefit his own financial needs”. He “wooed her and she fell in love with him”.
Ms Attra, who qualified in 2013, worked as a consultant for Carson Kaye from March 2016 to February 2017. She did not disclose her relationship with Mr Major to the firm until December 2016.
The solicitor applied for prior authority from the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) to make payments on four criminal legal aid files where she requested £82,700 for translating case papers into Romanian. Once the LAA gave the authority, Carson Kaye could apply for interim payments.
She had to provide the LAA with two quotes, but ensured that Mr Major’s was the better one.
Ms Attra’s files were periodically reviewed and it was discovered in February 2017 that she had applied for prior authority for the translation by Mr Major’s company of over a million words into Romanian, when the true word count across the four files was 90,300.
Her consultancy agreement was terminated for gross misconduct that month.
The LAA calculated that the actual cost of the translation work was just over £21,000 and it had paid £61,250 too much.
Ms Attra and Mr Major were tried and convicted in January 2020 at Inner London Crown Court of forgery, conspiracy to defraud and transferring criminal property.
Ms Attra was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years because she had their young child to care for, and 150 hours of unpaid work. Mr Major was jailed for three years.
The trial judge said Ms Attra sought alternative quotes but never actually sent case papers to other translation firms. In one case, she submitted a bogus quote from a company that had ceased trading almost a year ago.
Ms Attra admitted the allegations made by the SRA, based on her criminal convictions.
The solicitor had earned £15,300 from the fraud and was ordered to repay £5,580 at confiscation proceedings last November.
She told the SRA that she joined Carson Kaye with a promise of referrals from Mr Mayor, but it was not clear that his “primary interest” in working with her and the firm was so that he could obtain translation work.
Ms Attra claimed she did not know at the outset that his intention was to defraud the LAA and that at no time was she aware that he was inflating the word counts.
But the SRA said that, in failing to follow the proper procedures and by ensuring her partner’s company received the work, she had lacked integrity.
Ms Attra said she was “painfully aware” of the consequences of her actions and how her conviction meant she could no longer pursue a legal career and how “in the current climate”, it was “impossible to obtain any gainful employment”.