Solicitor struck off after stringing along immigration clients for years

Home Office: Solicitor faked letter

A solicitor who strung along two clients for several years that he had applied for their indefinite leave to remain in the UK when he had not has been struck off.

Tom Kwing Ming Li repeatedly and dishonestly misled them into believing their applications had been submitted and were progressing, including by fabricating a letter purportedly from the Home Office.

Mr Li qualified in 2006 at Bells Potter– having worked there previously as a legal executive – but soon after became one of two partners at fellow Surrey firm Harrison Li until it closed in February 2016. He was then employed as a consultant at TLSK Solicitors at the same address.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that Mr Li was instructed by Mrs YTL in 2004 and Ms YQM in 2010 to submit applications for permanent residence. By failing to do so, they both remained in the UK unlawfully for several years.

In each case, he told the tribunal that the client was a family friend and he did not charge them. Mr Li said his firm did not offer immigration advice and so he instructed a third-party agent who was recommended to him. This agent supposedly instructed another law firm.

However, Mr Li did not name the agent, while the law firm denied having ever acted for either woman. As a result, the SDT rejected Mr Li’s evidence.

It added that, even if he had instructed agents, Mr Li still bore responsibility of ensuring that the applications had been made and progressed. He failed to do so.

As a result, Ms YQM was unable to attend her father’s funeral in China and was also unable to visit her elderly mother-in-law in hospital in 2015.

The solicitor gave his clients “numerous assurances” on the progress of the applications and told Mrs YTL in autumn 2015 that he had instructed a barrister at No5 Chambers to collect her passport with the required leave to remain endorsement from the Home Office.

He backed this up with a letter purportedly from the UK Border Agency to No5 Chambers. None of this was true, however.

The SDT found Mr Li had acted dishonestly and also failed to co-operate with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which had to obtain a High Court order to force him to hand over his files.

Mr Li was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £37,500.

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