A partner in a South Yorkshire law firm who failed to disclose on the financial statement for his own divorce proceedings ownership of a second property has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Mamoon Rashid Chaudhary, who qualified in 2000 and practised at Oxley & Coward in Rotherham, falsely stated that the proceeds of sale of the building had been invested in a failed property venture.
The SDT said Mr Chaudhary had, as “an officer of the court”, submitted to the court “a misleading document, the Form E in divorce proceedings, which omitted to make reference to a property which he owned and gave an untrue explanation in relation to the proceeds of sale”.
The tribunal said his misconduct “fell squarely” within the dishonesty test set out by the Supreme Court in Ivey, and there were no exceptional circumstances.
Approving an agreement between Mr Chaudhary and the SRA that he be struck off, the SDT heard that “following notice that this wife was about to commence divorce proceedings”, the solicitor arranged that the brother of a client, referred to as ‘Witness 1’, would purchase a property he owned, which was not the matrimonial home.
Witness 1 become the director of a company, and the company bought the property for £75,000 with money provided by Mr Chaudhary.
The SDT heard that in the spring of 2013 Mr Chaudhary left blank the section in the Form E financial statement for his divorce detailing interests in ‘any other property, buildings or land’.
When asked whether there had been ‘significant changes in assets or income during the last 12 months’, Mr Chaudhary stated that the property was sold in July 2012 but explained that he had invested £105,000 in a property venture which “unfortunately failed”.
Following the first court hearing in his divorce proceedings in June 2013, Mr Chaudhary told his solicitors that “he wished to disclose the true facts in the respect of the property in the divorce proceedings”, and signed an amended financial statement.
The events came to light after Witness 1 lodged a complaint with Oxley & Coward in February 2015, which was referred to the SRA.
Mr Chaudhary admitted breaching various of the SRA principles and to acting dishonestly.
The SDT ordered that he should be struck off and pay costs of £29,000.