A solicitor has been fined £10,000 and banned from owning his own firm after a tribunal hearing revealed he gave a convicted fraudster an ‘inappropriate level of influence’ in running a firm he had bought.
According to a decision handed down by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Soteris Nicholas allowed his independence to be compromised by allowing the individual, referred to as DA, too much control.
Nicholas bought London firm Mulberry Finch Limited in 2013 for £225,000 after obtaining funding from an associate, a non-solicitor referred to as YY.
Nicholas received funding from YY’s company CE Limited but also let three of his other associates, including DA, help with the firm’s operations.
The firm was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority later in 2013 for failing to comply with SRA principles, its code of conduct and accounts rules.
In a decision published on October 11, the SDT said Nicholas ‘knew by his own admission’ that DA had a criminal record for ‘highly relevant’ fraud and deception offences.
DA spent five months in jail in 2001 and also received a suspended sentence in 2009 after pleading guilty to submitting false documents to the Israeli stock exchange.
‘The tribunal found it completely inappropriate for DA to have been involved in the firm particularly on an ongoing basis including being regularly on the premises,’ the SDT said.
Handing down its ruling, the SDT noted that Nicholas had no previous disciplinary history but said that making no order or imposing only a ‘reprimand’ would be insufficient to reflect the seriousness of the case.
‘The level of culpability and harm caused to the reputation of the profession meant that the protection of the public and the reputation of the legal profession required a greater sanction,’ it said.
As well as the £10,000 fine Nicholas has been ordered to pay £25,000 in costs.
He will be unable to act as a sole practitioner or manager of a firm, including an LLP, LDP or alternative business structure.