A solicitor who was convicted of a £90,000 tax fraud has been struck off and ordered to pay more than £3,000.
Caroline Jordan, formerly of Knightsbridge firm Hanover Solicitors, was convicted after pleading guilty to one count of being ‘knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT’.
Jordan, who was also known as Caroline Joseph, was jailed for 21 months, suspended for two years, in February last year at Kingston upon Thames Crown Court.
According to a decision published by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last week, Jordan failed to uphold the rule of law, failed to act with integrity and failed to behave in a way that maintained the public trust.
The SDT found that Jordan, who did not hold a current practising certificate, received around £90,000 as a result of the tax fraud. The £90,000 was eventually fully repaid.
Hanover Solicitors was originally called Hanover Property Lawyers but Jordan changed the name after complaints were made against a paralegal, the tribunal heard. Jordan claimed she spoke to HM Revenue & Customs to explain the name change but was given conflicting advice about whether the same VAT number could be used.
The tribunal heard Jordan then employed an accountant, referred to as ‘KL’, to deal with matters but that their relationship broke down. Jordan said KL told her that he could deal with the accounts and so she left financial matters in his charge. However, it transpired he was not a qualified accountant.
The SDT said it found it ‘difficult to believe’ that Jordan was not involved with the billing at the firm and did not pay attention to the firm’s bills of costs.
‘This was an integral part of any solicitor's practice enabling partners to establish the level of income coming into the firm and it was not credible that she paid no attention to those bills,’ the judgment said. It added that a partner in a firm should know whether or not that firm is paying VAT.
Jordan said she wanted to fight the charges against her that resulted in her conviction but pleaded guilty after discussions with her family and upon being informed that the trial would be a ‘strict test of liability’.
‘It was a very serious matter for a solicitor to be convicted of fraud and the tribunal took into the account the VAT had not been paid over a five-and-a-half-year period,’ the SDT stated.
It added: ‘The tribunal had not found the respondent to be a credible witness and found it difficult to believe that her conduct had not been deliberate.’
As well as being struck off, Jordan was ordered to pay £3,582 in costs.