A London solicitor caught in a TV sting advising about sham marriages has been struck off for a second time.
Zulfiqar Ali, a sole practitioner with ZA Solicitors Ltd, was banned by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after he was found to have knowingly advised on the best way to circumvent UK immigration rules.
Ali had been struck off in April 2019, but it emerged in the latest tribunal judgment that the first order had subsequently been quashed in the High Court and the matter remitted for reconsideration. Following a three-day hearing in July, the latest tribunal came to the same decision.
The SRA submitted that Ali met an undercover reporter who was part of television investigation into fake marriages. In both meetings, the solicitor offered as part of his service to assist sham marriages by ensuring the required evidence was produced. Ali was recorded saying he acted on clients’ instructions and added: ‘It’s not my job to find out whether they’re living together or not’.
The SRA said it was dishonest to provide a client with advice advocating a sham marriage and to help with circumventing immigration rules to secure residency in the UK. Ali was alleged to be ‘fully complicit’ in what was going on and unambiguous that what was proposed was a sham marriage.
Ali said he acted in good faith and that the reporter had steered the conversation towards fake marriages. He maintained he was merely speaking about an individual’s right to stay in the UK and answering hypothetical questions from a client.
The tribunal said it was clear from transcripts of both meetings that everything required for a sham marriage was discussed. Ali’s explanation was judged to be ‘implausible and not credible’ and he was found not to be a compelling or credible witness.
The ruling said: ‘As a matter of basic principle, the tribunal did not consider that a solicitor could simply turn a blind eye where a client is proposing to take unlawful action. Whilst all solicitors act on instructions, they are not free to do so in all circumstances without regard to any wider professional obligations.’
Ali submitted in mitigation that the misconduct happened in 2015 and he had continued to practise since then. It was maintained this incident resulted from deception and entrapment and he asked the tribunal to consider a suspension. The tribunal found no exceptional factors and struck him off, ordering him also to pay £26,500 costs. A separate allegation that he made payments out and facilitated dubious transactions on a property development scheme was also found proved.