A former managing partner of a Bradford solicitors’ firm, who was sent to prison for creating a fictitious business to fraudulently claim thousands of pounds from the Legal Aid Agency, has been struck off.
In a decision published this week the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said Mohammed Ayub, sole equity partner at Chambers Solicitors, had accepted that his misconduct was such that neither a reprimand nor a fine or suspension would be a sufficient sanction. Ayub’s business partner Neil Frew, who received a suspended prison sentence for his part in the fraud, was also struck off.
Both men agreed to a statement of agreed facts, admissions and outcome with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Ayub was jailed for three years and six months while Frew, a salaried partner, received a suspended prison sentence of two years plus community service. Ayub’s brother Mohammed Riaz, who is not a solicitor, was handed a two year and nine-month sentence.
Between September 2010 and October 2014, the trio conspired to create a sham company – known as Legal Support Services (LSS) – to claim expenses from the Legal Aid Agency for providing interpreters for immigration and asylum contract work. No definitive figure for the loss to the agency was revealed but prosecutors said it was in ‘broad terms’ between £194,000 and £234,000.
In addition to the LAA fraud, Ayub was found to have failed to supervise an unpaid junior member of staff and ‘law student’ who was suspected of producing fraudulent decree absolutes. The student was known only as ‘Anna’ and, according to the published outcome, no-one at the firm knew her surname.
According to the agreed outcome ‘Anna’ helped over a period of three to four years from 2009. In a statement made to police another solicitor at the firm, who suspected Anna was involved in the fraud, said Anna would come in at irregular times and that there was no proof that she was studying anywhere. She had access to the firm’s case management system and was allowed to be inside the firm outside working hours, the solicitor’s statement said.
Ayub admitted to having no control over who could access the case management system or assist with legal work and when that could take place. He also admitted that there was also no system in place for supervising client matters.
Ayub was ordered to pay costs of £4,100 while Frew was ordered to pay £847.