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Solicitor “offered client money” to withdraw complaint

SDT: Solicitor was dishonest

A solicitor who offered a client money to withdraw a complaint against him has been struck off.

Shuaib Saeed was further found to have created a false settlement agreement that saw a client pay money to a fictitious claimant.

The criminal defence solicitor’s cases included acting for a man arrested outside Buckingham Palace in 2017 while armed with a 4ft sword and repeatedly shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) also criticised the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for how it had pleaded the case, which meant that two of the six allegations it had made against Mr Saeed – relating to having client money paid into a bank account other than that of his firm, and breaches of the accounts rules – as well as parts of two other allegations, had to be dropped.

Mr Saeed, born in 1985 and qualified in 2013, worked at Bromley, Kent firm MK Law Solicitors until he left in January 2018 after a complaint from ‘Client A’.

It emerged that Mr Saeed acted for Client A over a charge of actual bodily harm, but told his firm that he was not acting in the case; he even took a day’s holiday to appear for Client A in court. Client A believed he had instructed and paid £2,400 to him as a solicitor of MK Law.

After Client A – who was convicted – complained to the firm, Mr Saeed contacted him and his daughter repeatedly and offered money if he would withdraw the complaint. Client A refused.

The SDT said this behaviour breached four of the SRA Principles, including lacking integrity, and was also dishonest.

In the other case, he acted for ‘LD’ over several allegations of criminal damage. LD was not prosecuted but Mr Saeed advised him to enter into a settlement agreement to pay for the damage in order to avoid any civil proceedings by a ‘JE’.

LD’s father and the parents of another boy involved in the incident paid £3,800 in settlement, but MK Law’s investigations later established from the police that JE was not an alleged victim of the criminal damage.

In all, LD’s father paid £6,200 – the settlement sum plus fees for two legal matters – into an account that again was not that of the firm. It was not clear whose account it was that received the money.

The SDT said that although, as a result, it could not find that Mr Saeed received a direct pecuniary advantage from the £3,800, it was sure he had “derived personal benefit” as this was the account to which he had directed the money.

Again finding Mr Saeed had breached several SRA Principles, including lacking integrity, it said he was dishonest as well: “Ordinary decent people would consider it dishonest both to prepare a settlement agreement for your client which alleged that a fictional victim would be compensated and to arrange for the alleged compensation to be paid into an account of [Mr Saeed’s] specification which was not the firm’s account.”

Mr Saeed was also found to have failed to co-operate with the SRA, although he was cleared of another set of allegations – relating to misuse of legal aid money and failing to attend a video-link appointment at a magistrates’ court – as the evidence was not sufficiently clear.

Mr Saeed, who was believed to be living in Dubai at the time of the hearing, did not engage with the tribunal, which concluded that his motivation “appeared to be financial gain”.

MK Law had suffered both financial and reputational lost, and the SDT said it was struck by the comments of Client A’s daughter that “it would take a lot for me to trust someone from the legal profession again”.

The misconduct was “deliberate, calculated and repeated”, and Mr Saeed had to be struck off.

But the tribunal only allowed the SRA £10,000 of the £20,620 costs it sought in light of the “defective” pleadings and its failure to prove one set of allegations.

Had they been properly drafted, the bank account allegations would have been proven, the SDT noted.