A solicitor accused of involvement in a collapsed overseas investment scheme has failed to delay a hearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. A three person panel decided yesterday that the hearing against Charles Valentine Fraser-Macnamara should not be adjourned. It also ruled that the hearing could continue in Fraser-Macnamara's absence.
The tribunal heard that Fraser-Macnamara, who was not represented, submitted in writing that the SDT hearing could ‘muddy the waters’ or have an adverse impact on any potential future criminal trial.
However the tribunal noted that no criminal charges had been brought and no trial was in prospect. It accepted submissions from Rory Dunlop QC – counsel for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) – that, even in the event a criminal trial did take place, a court would be well equipped to deal with any publicity arising from the SDT hearing.
The claims against Fraser-Macnamara include that in his capacity as a director at Brazil-based Ecohouse Developments (EDL) he: caused or allowed misrepresentations to be made to potential investors; failed to maintain adequate accounting records and involved himself in a dubious scheme and/or dubious transactions which bore the hallmarks of fraud and or money laundering.
Fraser-Macnamara was suspended by the SDT in 2016 for his work in relation to the scheme while he was consultant to Midlands law firm Sanders & Co, which acted for EDL. The present case focuses on Fraser-Macnamara’s actions as a nominee director at the company.
The tribunal ruled that, even if Fraser-Macnamara had received legal advice not to attend the hearing, that was not a reason not to proceed.
More than 800 people invested in the Ecohouse social housing scheme, which was suspended in November 2014.
The SDT hearing is expected to last five days.