An immigration solicitor secretly recorded discussing with a purported client how to game the system has been banned from the profession.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that a covert recording made by ITV showed Syed Muzaher Naqvi advising a reporter posing as a client that he would have a better chance of securing a visa if he applied as a spouse or partner. Naqvi urged the man not to tell him if the relationship was genuine.
Naqvi, admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales after qualifying in Pakistan, was a sole practitioner at Southall firm Naqvi & Co Solicitors. He notified the Solicitors Regulation Authority that he had been the subject of a television documentary in 2015.
The tribunal heard that ITV authorised a covert recording, in which Naqvi discussed documents needed to show evidence of a relationship and gave examples of previous applications. He told the client: ‘Whether it is genuine or not, I don’t know that. Whoever comes to me is a genuine man giving me authority to certify the papers to proceed the application.’
Naqvi insisted to the tribunal there was no evidence of involvement in sham marriages, and that an arranged marriage, which he believed the client to be discussing, was not unlawful. His lawyer told the tribunal the purported client had been ‘fishing and caught no fish’ and the meeting was a ‘classic case of two people talking at cross purposes’.
But the tribunal rejected the claim that Naqvi had been a victim of entrapment. It was satisfied the solicitor was fully aware what the client was really asking him about, as shown by advice that such an arrangement might be ‘very shaky’ and risky. Naqvi was found to be ‘deliberately closing his eyes’ to the obvious to avoid responsibility and to be able to deny it if the sham was exposed. He was found to have acted dishonestly.
Naqvi said in mitigation that no criminal offence had been committed, he was provoked by an undercover agent whom he had been unable to cross-examine, and the level of financial gain was only £70. He was struck off and ordered to pay almost £25,000 in costs.
UPDATE, 10 JULY: The tribunal's order is now subject to appeal to the High Court by Naqvi but remains in force pending the court's decision.