An immigration solicitor banned following his appearance in a TV sting on sham marriages has failed to overturn the decision in the High Court.
Syed Muzaher Naqvi had sought to overturn the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal decision to strike him off, saying the prosecution was based on firstly entrapment and then edited versions of events provided by the TV company making the programme.
Lord Justice Flaux, sitting in Naqvi v Solicitors Regulation Authority, rejected his appeal, saying the solicitor had been prepared to deliberately circumvent immigration rules and that the judgment of the tribunal could not be faulted.
The judge added: ‘This was serious professional misconduct involving dishonesty which was at the highest end of the spectrum involving serious damage to the reputation of the profession and a serious breach of the trust that the public is entitled to place in the profession.’
Naqvi, a sole practitioner with Southall-based Naqvi & Co Solicitors, had been investigated following his appearance on a July 2015 programme entitled ‘ITV Exposure UK: The Shame Marriage Racket’. The documentary included footage of an undercover reporter posing as a client and twice visiting Naqvi’s west London offices.
The tribunal concluded that Naqvi had told the purported client he did not wish to know whether the relationship in question was genuine. Indeed, the solicitor’s willingness to advise and assist a Home Office application was ‘clear’ from the transcript of the conversation.
Naqvi, admitted in 2009, attempted to argue against his strike-off, saying his conduct was provoked by deception, without which it would not have occurred.
Before the High Court last month, he argued that the unavailability of the reporter for cross-examination at the tribunal was an abuse of process. He said the full transcripts of the two interviews ‘could well’ have been edited and inaccurate. He submitted that both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the SDT had been selective, picking and choosing passages whereas the transcript as a whole demonstrated that he had not been guilty of misconduct.
The SRA told the court the tribunal’s findings followed a three-day hearing at which Naqvi was represented by leading counsel. The tribunal was ‘crystal clear’ in rejecting Naqvi’s case that he and the client were at cross purposes.
The judge said Naqvi could not ‘begin to show’ that the tribunal was not entitled to reach its conclusions on his misconduct and dishonesty. The submission that he gave only generic advice was ‘no more than an attempt to reargue the case’ in circumstances where the tribunal had already rejected it.