A solicitor secretly recorded telling an undercover reporter he could help circumvent immigration rules has been struck off the roll.
Zulfiqar Ali told the purported client he could prepare and submit paperwork in support of a bogus marriage, and was found to have acted dishonestly by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
He was recorded by an undercover reporter and part of this meeting was subsequently broadcast as part of ITV’s Exposure. UK – The Sham Marriage Racket, shown in 2015.
Ali, authorised as a sole practitioner and who practised from his east London firm ZA Solicitors, denied misconduct and has notified the tribunal he intends to appeal the decision in the High Court. The strike off order remains in place pending the court’s ruling.
During a two-day hearing in February, the tribunal heard that Ali, 50 this year, was asked by the client how he could extend his stay in the UK and ultimately secure permanent residency.
On the recording, Ali explained the only option left was ‘getting married’, and he told the client to ‘go and find some suitable person’.
When asked what would happen if the client paid someone to marry him, the solicitor replied: ‘It totally depends on you.’ Ali went on to say he could ‘do the paperwork, visa, certificate but at the end of the day it’s a very costly business’. He explained the total cost would be up to £13,000 to ‘do all the work… pay her, pay the solicitor’.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority said Ali understood that what was being proposed was a sham marriage and he was fully complicit in advising the client on his options. As well as offering advice on how to circumvent the UK immigration system, he advised on the risks of being caught and what evidence the client would need to support any application to stay.
Ali, who represented himself at tribunal, denied he would have carried out any work for the client if he was not genuine. Suggesting he find a suitable person meant finding someone who suited the client’s personality, and at no stage did he enter a contract to carry out work in relation to any sham marriage. Ali submitted it was for the Home Office, not him, to ascertain whether a marriage was genuine.
The tribunal found it was ‘clear throughout the interview’ that the client intended to enter a sham marriage, and the only proper advice he could have given was that he could not act in those circumstances.
The tribunal also found separate allegations in relation to a conveyancing matter proved, namely that Ali caused and/or permitted client money, which included the purchaser’s deposit money, to be paid into the office account. Ali then transferred money to a recipient knowing they did not own the property and put deposit monies at risk.
Ali argued the appropriate tribunal action would be no order, or at most a fine of £500. This was rejected and he was struck off, with an order to pay almost £19,000 costs.