The Solicitors Regulation Authority today confirmed it has shut down Bolton-based Asons Solicitors and intervened into the practice of its former chief executive Kamran Akram.
The SRA said Akram’s practising certificate had been automatically suspended. Any files, either archive or current, that were owned by Asons Solicitors are now in the SRA’s possession.
According to the SRA, its adjudication panel was satisfied that it is necessary to intervene to protect the interests of clients and former clients of the firm.
It added the panel was satisfied Akram had failed to comply with the SRA principles and its code of conduct.
The SRA has not said whether the intervention affects Coops Law, also known as Banks Solicitors, which acquired Asons last week.
According to the firm’s latest accounts, filed this week with Companies House, it reported a £2.1m loss for the year ending 31 May 2016.
Headcount at the end of the financial reporting period was 199, which had fallen from 263 compared to the previous year.
The closure comes as it emerged that a controversial £300,000 grant handed to Asons from the local authority has been repaid in full.
The money was returned to Bolton Council earlier this week after the authority instructed solicitors to recover the grant, awarded under emergency powers last year.
A notice to terminate the grant was delivered to Asons on Monday and the firm's former chief executive Kamran Akram contacted the council that afternoon with an offer to repay, the council confirmed today.
A statement, issued on behalf of the local authority, said: ‘We served notice to terminate the grant in accordance with our grant agreement on Monday, 27 March. Following our instructions to commence legal proceedings, we were contacted by a representative for the former director and shareholder of Asons with an offer to repay the grant. We are satisfied that the grant has been repaid in full without having to go through the grant recovery process.'
Council leader Cliff Morris told a council meeting last night: ‘Our grant conditions were robust and clear. Asons ceased to trade. We served notice to terminate the grant.’
Asons ceased trading at the end of last week. The Gazette subsequently revealed that the new business to take over the firm, which will be based in the same offices, is an alternative business structure called Banks Solicitors.
Banks, which trades under the name Coops Law, is owned by Irfan Akram. He is also a director of Ason Estates, which owns the building where Banks, formerly Asons, is based.
Asons became the subject of controversy last year when it was awarded the grant under Bolton Council’s emergency powers procedure. This procedure allows the authority to take ‘any action on behalf of the council in any cases of urgency’.
The firm’s most recent accounts showed a dispute with the tax authorities also quantified at £300,000 and a loss of more than £1m for the year to May 2015.
There is no evidence linking the £300,000 dispute referred to in the accounts with the same sum granted to Asons for the building development work.
An independent audit by accountancy KPMG into the grant is expected. Stephen Crompton, partner at Bolton-based firm Russell & Russell, said he doubted that the people of Bolton will regard this as ‘closure’.