SDT: Bruce Ihionkhan Ighalo

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The SDT ordered that the respondent, of London SE2, should be struck off the roll.

  • Application 10614-2010
  • Admitted 2000
  • Hearing 5 September 2011
  • Reasons 11 October 2011

The respondent had, in breach of rule 22(5) of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, withdrawn money on behalf of one client which exceeded the money held on that client’s behalf; in breach of rule 32(1) of the rules, he had failed to keep accounting records properly written up at all times to show his dealings with client money held, received or paid; in breach of rule 32(7) of the rules, he had failed to carry out reconciliations in accordance with the requirements of the said rule; in breach of rule 32(9) of the rules, he had failed to retain bank statements received from the Bank of Scotland for a period of at least six years; he had dishonestly breached rule 1 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 in that he had failed to act with integrity contrary to rule 1.02, had allowed his independence to be compromised contrary to rule 1.03, had failed to act in the best interests of his client contrary to rule 1.04; and had behaved in a way that was likely to diminish the trust the public placed in him or the profession; he had acted in circumstances in which there was a conflict between his interests and those of his client; contrary to rule 10.05(1)(a) of the code, he had failed to fulfil an undertaking given to Cash Express on 30 October 2007 to repay a loan of £50,000; and he had acted in breach of rule 1 of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990 in that he had compromised or impaired his independence or integrity, had compromised or impaired his duty to act in the best interests of his client; and had compromised or impaired his good repute and that of the solicitors’ profession in having acted in or otherwise having facilitated conveyancing transactions during the course of which he had failed to be alert to the suspicious characteristics of those transactions, and that as a consequence he had been grossly reckless.

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The SDT had found that the respondent had been dishonest. It had not been suggested that there were exceptional circumstances such as those identified in the decision of the Divisional Court in Solicitors Regulation Authority v Sharma [2010] EWHC 2022 (Admin) justifying a sanction other than striking off.

The deliberate use by the respondent of Abbey’s mortgage funds to meet his personal obligation rather than to redeem his Bank of Scotland mortgage was a serious matter. During the course of giving his evidence it was very apparent to the SDT that the respondent took no personal responsibility for his actions.

He had chosen to make excuses and blame others for his own shortcomings, and in so doing he had demonstrated a weakness of character and lack of judgement that was profoundly troubling.

The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £30,000.

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