A partner has been struck off for transferring over £40,000 to his own bank account while claiming it was used to pay a costs draftsman and a marketing company.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said Mohammed Asif Din “knew the money was being paid to him and knew that he was concealing that by creating false accounting records”.
The tribunal said it was also “beyond doubt” that Mr Din had made a “number of false and misleading statements” to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over a period of eight months.
“This was not a case where a simple error had been made, on one or even two occasions. The respondent had had the opportunity to consider his responses to the questions and to check whatever information was available before giving answers in writing.”
The tribunal heard in SRA v Din (case no.11720-2017) that Mr Din was born in 1969 and admitted to the roll in 1997. He was a partner and director of Sovereign Solicitors (SS) and Dean Solicitors (DS), which were closed by the SRA in March 2017. Both law firms had two partners.
The SDT said Mr Din’s false statements related to the control of bank accounts, which he knew were his and to which he had “knowingly transferred” the firm’s money, concealment of payments to himself and the fact that he benefitted from payments which “appeared to have been made” to Kevyn Thompson, a self-employed costs draftsman and Infinity Marketing.
The SDT did not accept the submission made by counsel for Mr Din that “a dishonest solicitor would be unlikely to answer some questions honestly and some dishonestly”.
However, it accepted that Mr Din did not know that Mr Thompson was a struck-off solicitor, removed from the roll in 2000 for “disgraceful” misconduct, including dishonest behaviour.
Mr Din denied lack of integrity or acting dishonestly. The tribunal found that along with breaching the Accounts Rules, which the solicitor admitted, he had breached Principles 2 (lack of integrity), 6 and 8 by transferring at least £42,500 from the bank account of SS to bank accounts in the name of Mr Thompson and Infinity, “when, in fact, the monies were being transferred to his personal bank accounts”.
Mr Din was also found to have provided “false and inaccurate information” to the SRA, including as to whether he had benefitted from the payments made by SS.
The tribunal said Mr Din’s explanation for the transfers from his law firms to Mr Thompson and Infinity was “predicated on the existence of loans”, but nobody could give the tribunal “any sort of indication about how much had been loaned, in what circumstances and when it should be repaid”.
The SDT went on: “It was incredible that someone would loan a significant sum – whether or not the loan were recorded formally – without having some idea of the figures. This rendered the explanation that there were loans between these parties implausible.”
The tribunal said it did not accept that the loans claimed to have made by Mr Din “had ever been made”.
The SDT said it had “no difficulty” in finding that Mr Din, who had not “availed himself of the opportunities he had been given to give an account of his actions”, had been dishonest.
The tribunal ordered that Mr Din be struck off and pay costs of £26,000.