A solicitor who abandoned his firm after a string of accounting failures has been banned from the profession.
Sabir Hussain, sole principal of Blackburn firm NP Law Ltd, made improper withdrawals from client accounts and tried to conceal what he had done, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard.
Facing bankruptcy and a Solicitors Regulation Authority investigation, he then abandoned his firm, leaving a trainee to handle ongoing matters, and failed to effect an orderly winding down of the practice.
Hussain, admitted in September 2007, was found to have transferred £60,000 out of the firm’s client account without the client knowing.
The solicitor, who was acting in a property transaction, said the sale had been delayed and he was unable to hold onto the funds as this would require him to pay interest, which was against his religious beliefs.
Hussain denied dishonesty but the client said he did not know the person who received the transfer and he had not authorised it.
In a different transaction, £85,000 was transferred to the same recipient with no explanation or authority for the payment.
In September 2014, Hussain sent a text message to a consultant at the firm, citing the stress of a bankruptcy petition and asking the consultant to brief the firm’s trainee to deal with ongoing conveyancing work.
Hussain did not subsequently return to work.
Hussain told the SRA he regretted abandoning his firm but was ‘paralysed by my fears and the fear of being ostracised by my community and my family’. He also said he felt unsupported by the SRA as he faced his financial troubles.
In October 2014, the SRA made various attempts to call and email Hussain, but received no reply for four weeks.
At the tribunal, the SRA submitted that Hussain’s conduct was dishonest, as shown by his attempting to disguise his actions by making entries in client ledgers saying funds had been returned.
His explanation about the payment of interest was ‘obviously untrue’ and advanced to ‘conceal wrongdoing’, said the regulator.
The tribunal said Hussain had gone to ‘great lengths’ to conceal unauthorised and improper withdrawals, repeatedly entering misleading narratives into the client ledger, accusing the SRA of discrimination and even accusing clients of fraud when they made claims to the compensation fund.
It added: ‘The respondent’s actions had been deliberate, calculated and repeated. He had tried to conceal his actions with ludicrous excuses that included effectively accusing the clients of perpetrating a fraud on the solicitors compensation fund.’
The protection of the public and of the reputation of the profession demanded ‘nothing less’ than his removal from it. Hussain had given limited admissions demonstrating no insight in what he had done wrong, which the tribunal found ‘deeply troubling’.
Hussain was struck off the roll and ordered to pay £45,750 in SRA costs. He has 21 days from publication of the judgment to appeal.