A solicitor accused of allowing his firm to become embroiled in fraudulent activity has a ‘black and white understanding’ of what is right and what is wrong, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard today. Kamran Akram said he would never have allowed any suspicious activity to take place had he known about it.
Akram, formerly chief solicitor at Asons Solicitors in Bolton, is accused of causing or permitting the presentation of applications for costs that misrepresented the grade of fee-earners so as to increase the level of recoverable costs. He is also accused of causing or permitting claims for special damages containing particulars that were false. Akram denies that he lacked integrity, or acted dishonestly or recklessly.
The solicitor, admitted in 2005, told the tribunal in evidence today that he had no direct control over costs drafting, which was left to the relevant department.
‘Managers were appointed to look after each department,' Akram said, adding that he ‘never physically signed off any bills of costs’. The tribunal heard that an electronic template of Akram’s signature was attached to some bills but that he was unaware of its use.
Akram added that he would have no reason to sign off any suspect bills as the amount gained was not significant when compared with the firm’s financial performance.
Akram conceded that the firm - which the tribunal heard had won a string of employment accolades - probably ‘grew too fast’. It increased from just a two person operation to employing more than 200 in just five years.
The solicitor added that his previous ‘open door policy’, whereby people could come in and talk to him, was forced to stop when his wife became ill and his workload increased.
Earlier in the day, Geoff Williams QC, representing Akram, successfully argued to the tribunal that one of the charges against Akram – that he was in fact a ‘proxy’ for his brother Imran - should be dismissed.
Williams said: ‘It’s unclear what is meant by “proxy”. The nearest I can get is that Kamran was doing Imran’s bidding, but there is no evidence at all for that.’
Williams added there was no evidence that Imran Akram, a non-solicitor, was involved in any decisions that centred around reserved legal activities. He added: 'Let’s assume that Imran was appointed to head up the financial aspects then there should be no objection to that. The practice of appointing non-solicitors to advise on purely financial matters is rife within the profession.’
The hearing, expected to last for eight days, continues.