* UPDATE, 30 JANUARY 2020: The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found no case to answer against Nabeel Sheikh following a hearing in November 2019. He was cleared of all misconduct allegations, including dishonesty. Further details can be found here.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority has moved to intervene in a boutique criminal law practice where dishonesty is suspected. The regulator effectively closed down central London firm Neumans LLP after intervening in both the practice and its founder Nabeel Sheikh.
In both cases the SRA says there is reason to suspect dishonesty, and to suspect the firm and Sheikh have failed to comply with rules applicable in the Administration of Justice Act.
Neumans was founded by Sheikh in 2005 and, according to its website, grew to a firm of 35 lawyers, specialising in the fields of serious crime and extradition. It also has an office in Manchester.
Described in its Twitter profile as a ‘highly ambitious’ firm, Neumans claims to have acted for leaders in business and politics, celebrities, high-net-worth individuals and people from across the professions.
According to accounts filed with Companies House, as at 31 March 2016 the firm had more than £2m in assets, with £100,000 cash at the bank and in hand. A year earlier the company’s assets were £1.25m. Amounts owed to creditors had risen from £1.37m to £2.1m.
Intervention effectively means the firm can no longer trade and can no longer represent former clients.
London firm Devonshires has been appointed by the SRA to oversee the process of clients finding new solicitors.
In December, Neumans was referred to the SRA by Lord Justice Simon following a Court of Appeal ruling, although it is unclear whether this is the basis for the intervention.
In Patel, R. v  EWCA Crim 2001, it was heard that businessman Hitendra Patel, represented by Neumans, had made a defence costs order to be paid out of central funds after a successful appeal.
In the course of the subsequent assessment, Simon said, it became apparent that Neumans’s bill of costs was based on an agreement to increase the level of fees charged by the firm. The lord chancellor alleged that a very large number of hours claimed in June 2011 were ‘falsely claimed’ and that the solicitor on the case would have been incapable of working the hours. It was further alleged that Neumans’s invoices and bill of costs ‘significantly overstated’ fee to which Patel was liable.
Patel and Neumans were jointly ordered to repay £500,000 as an interim payment by 23 January this year.