Solicitor who lied to client and SRA is struck off

SDT: Suspended solicitor in 2020

A solicitor who repeatedly lied to a client and also acted for clients while he was suspended, lying about it to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has been struck off.

Mahesh Chouhan, who admitted dishonesty, lied to his client on 11 occasions over a period of two and a half years, telling her about legal proceedings to recover rent arrears which were never issued.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said he had “deliberately provided his client with information which he knew to be false, and then maintained those falsehoods for a period of time.

“Further, when questioned by the SRA about whether he was practising, he provided dishonest answers.”

Mr Chouhan, admitted in 2011, was an assistant solicitor at West London law firm ABM Solicitors and Advocates between August 2017 and September 2019, when the SRA shut down the firm and suspended his practising certificate; it expired the following month.

He was suspended for two years by the SDT in June 2020 for what happened at ABM, but Mr Chouhan also had his own practice in Hertfordshire, MMC Solicitors, where he committed the later offences.

The SRA said, in an agreed outcome approved by the SDT, that he told Client A1 in May 2017 that he had issued legal proceedings in connection with her rent arrears claim and provided her updates for nearly three years indicating that it was ongoing.

In fact, proceedings were never issued and Client A1 reported him to the SRA in March 2020.

Mr Chouhan admitted holding himself out as a practising solicitor between October 2019 and February 2020. The SRA said that when his practising certificate expired, it sent him a firm closure notification for MMC Solicitors.

Nevertheless, Mr Chouhan continued to communicate with Client A1 from an MMC email address, while he was also found to have acted for another client using MMC’s headed notepaper in November 2019.

Mr Chouhan told the regulator in an email in February 2021: “I wish to confirm that since my suspension as a solicitor I have not undertaken any legal work that would cause me to be in breach of the suspension nor have I corresponded with any clients.”

He admitted that this information was false, he “knew it was false” and he had acted dishonestly. He also admitted accounts rule breaches and the failure to keep client money separate from money belonging to himself or the firm.

The solicitor said, in non-agreed mitigation: “I am remorseful for my conduct which was very much out of character and I am ashamed as I was a good solicitor and only wanted the best for my clients.”

He was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £1,500.

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