A former solicitor banned from the profession for 14 years has been rebuffed for a third time in his attempts to be readmitted to the roll.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found Aurangzeb Iqbal fell short of the standard required to lift his strike-off – and ordered that he be prevented from making any further bid to return until he has paid back the costs of his repeated failed applications.
Iqbal had argued his original offences had not involved dishonesty and he posed no risk to the public, but the Solicitors Regulation Authority urged the tribunal to retain the ban, saying he had failed to show a sufficient change in character.
The tribunal heard Iqbal had been struck off in 2004 – having already been suspended for six months in 1998 – for running what was described by the tribunal at the time as a ‘sham’ operation which ‘drove a coach and horses’ through any attempt to regulate how it was run. Allegations proved against him included withdrawing monies from the client account without permission, failing to account for VAT to tax authorities, and running his practice in a way designed to circumvent conditions imposed on his practising certificate.
This was his third application for restoration to the roll, after being refused in 2012 and 2014. He has been given permission to work as a legal clerk in a regulated firm.
The tribunal heard that Iqbal had set up and run a claims management company since his ban, which was subsequently found to have acted in breach of regulations by making unsolicited calls to significant numbers of people. A fine of £220,000 imposed by the claims management regulator remained outstanding.
Iqbal also still owes the costs of his failed applications for restoration to the roll, and has not paid the £94,500 costs of intervention into his firm. The tribunal heard that the compensation fund has made payments coming to more than £550,000 in respect of Iqbal’s firms.
The former solicitor had asked for an opportunity to ‘redeem himself’ and return to the profession, with the offer of an in-house role on the table, and said he had rebuilt his reputation within his community.
But the tribunal said the public would have ‘fundamental concerns’ about letting him return, and these were not offset by an offer of employment.
Its judgment added that Iqbal ‘failed to demonstrate any rehabilitation in the 14 years since he had been struck from the roll, and had failed completely to show that he was now a person of the utmost integrity, probity and trustworthiness. Indeed, his conduct tended to show the opposite’.
Iqbal was refused restoration to the roll and ordered to pay £4,983 costs. The tribunal also stopped him making any further applications without leave of the tribunal and until he had paid the total costs of his three failed bids.