Four partners at a Birmingham firm shut down early last year have been fined more than £30,0000 after admitting that client ledgers were not kept up to date for six years.
Zain Siddiqi, Afifa Kiran, Nusrat Hussain and Safdar Akhtar, former members of Saints Solicitors, agreed to a series of facts, including that the firm’s books of account were not properly up top date and certain ledgers were ‘inaccurate’. Siddiqi was fined £15,000, Kiran was fined £10,000, Hussain £5,000 and Akhtar £5,000.
The admission appears in an agreed outcome between the firm and the Solicitors Regulation Authority published this month. The SRA intervened into the firm in March last year.
The four lawyers admitted that before Saints Solicitors was shut down, debit balances that totalled just under £29,000 existed on the ledgers of 29 clients. They also admitted that the firm’s account books were not ‘properly written up to date’ between between April 2011 and January 2017.
In agreed facts it was noted that, in one case, funds were held for a client in the bank account of an employee of the firm. Although the SDT noted that the client had consented to this the firm had not given proper consideration as to why it was convenient to the client and had failed to obtain proper written consent.
Dishonesty was not alleged by the SRA.
In mitigation, which the SRA said it did not recognise, the respondents claimed they were unaware of the scale of the problem and they had not intended to breach the rules. They added that the bookkeeping errors had been caused, in significant measure, by the migration of the firm’s accounts from one system to another.
Siddiqi was admitted to the roll in 2004, Kiran in 2011, Hussain in 2013 and Akhtar was in 2013.
Each of the respondents were also ordered to pay £2,000 in costs and will face restrictions preventing them from acting as a solicitor on their own account and being the owner or manager of an authorised body.