A solicitor who transferred £90,000 from the client account to pay off a tax bill has been struck off the roll.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Major Singh-Raud, who practised from his own firm in Stockport, made the transfer days before the Solicitors Regulation Authority intervened to close him down over concerns about account rule breaches.
Singh-Raud had told SRA intervention agents he had made the transfer to ensure that HM Revenue & Customs, which had served him a statutory demand for £195,000 five months earlier, did not declare him bankrupt.
He agreed that the money was withdrawn from the client account in October 2017, with most sent to HMRC and £10,000 to the client account to cover damages that were due to be paid to clients.
He maintained the funds withdrawn were not client monies, but belonged to the firm and thus to him. His failure to adhere to correct procedure was an ‘innocent oversight’ and not inherently dishonest, he said.
But the tribunal considered that Singh-Raud was making a late justification for the improper use of monies that ought to have remained in the client account.
It was clear at the time of the transfer that the solicitor ‘was more concerned with avoiding bankruptcy than he was in complying with [accounts rules]’. The judgment added: ‘Even on [his own] case, he knew that he had taken client monies to which he was not entitled, to satisfy a personal debt.’
Singh-Raud was also found to have failed to pay professional disbursements which had been deposited into the office account. This followed a report to the SRA in January 2017 from a company instructed to conduct more than 305 medical examinations for personal injury claims which subsequently settled. The company calculated that it was owed more than £58,000.
Singh-Raud, 42 this year, admitted failing to pay disbursements, saying he could not manage his day to day caseload and that the general management of the office had become too much.
He was struck off the roll after 17 years as a solicitor and ordered to pay almost £18,000 in costs.