A newly-qualified solicitor who claimed for non-existent legal aid hearings - then blamed the whole thing on an elaborate conspiracy - has been banned from the profession. Drakens Ejovi Mukoro, admitted in January 2011, was found by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to have claimed more than £11,000 from the Legal Aid Agency for purported first tier mental health tribunals between September 2011 and May 2015.
The tribunal heard that investigators found 15 matters where hearings had not taken place as described in the files. Mukoro’s firm, south London practice Gans & Co Solicitors, has already paid £176,000 back to the Legal Aid Agency for hearings where files could not be located.
Mukoro, representing himself, told the tribunal he was framed by a former colleague as part of a conspiracy which involved numerous calls to his home address and his wife’s mobile phone, a forged freelance contract and files created by someone else.
The tribunal rejected this theory in its entirety and found his explanation ‘fantastical’, pointing out he had not advanced the theory at police interviews or in corrspondence with the LAA. The notion of a conspiracy was dismissed as the solicitor was found dishonest on two separate charges.
Mukoro had written the attendance notes for the non-existent hearings, and later created false documents to add to files. This was done in a deliberate attempt to provide evidence showing these were valid matters where payment could be properly claimed from the LAA.
In considering sanction, the tribunal said his actions were planned and took foresight to amend dates on key documents. His actions were in ‘fundamental breach’ of the trust placed in him by his firm to provide it with legitimate files for billing.
The tribunal added: 'He had caused colossal harm to the reputation of the profession, and had caused financial harm to his previous employers. He had wholly departed from the standards of complete integrity, probity and trustworthiness expected of him by the public and his peers.’
The firm itself was found to lack sufficient systems in place to supervise Mukoro, after it was heard he was too specialised for his work to be assessed.
The firm insisted the prosecution was made with the benefit of hindsight and did not sufficiently take into consideration that it had been ‘hoodwinked’.
The tribunal fined the firm £5,000, adding that even rudimentary reviews at an earlier stage might have established that fees were being claimed for hearings that did not take place. The firm will pay £10,000 in costs, while Mukoro must pay around £38,000.