The sole principal of a law firm who submitted 443 improper claims to the Legal Aid Agency amounting to nearly £1m, and abandoned his practice, has been struck off. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said Jimoh Adun’s conduct was ’deliberate, calculated and repeated’ in a judgment published this month.
Adun, admitted in 2009, was the sole principal of Nieko Solicitors, which began trading in 2011 and held legal aid contracts in crime, mental health and prison law.
An off-site audit carried out by the LAA in 2014 raised concerns about the firm’s mental health claims for costs, including disbursements. A subsequent investigation found that, between December 2010 and October 2014, the firm submitted 443 claims for applications or hearings that had not taken place. The firm was assessed to have received £994,396.70 in unsubstantiated claims.
In December 2014 the Solicitors Regulation Authority decided to intervene into the firm on grounds that the practice had been abandoned and to protect Adun's clients' interests.
Adun, who denied the regulator's allegations, did not attend the tribunal hearing on 8 March. The judgment states that he was currently living in Nigeria.
In mitigation, Adun said the firm's start-up was funded mainly by proceeds from the sale of his home and third-party loans. He also had a young family. The judgment states: 'The respondent had personal difficulty in coping with his family duties and practice of law and/or management of the firm. Consequently he depended on the supervisory staff employed at the firm for support.' As at December last year, he was homeless, suffered a marital breakdown, had been separated from his children for three years and suffered from depression since the firm closed.
The tribunal found that, by submitting 'several hundred improper claims', which had been paid, Adun 'had taken unfair advantage of the LAA in his professional capacity’. The tribunal said Adun did not notify the regulator that the firm was to close. 'A solicitor acting with integrity would have ensured that once he knew that his firm had to close that he effected the orderly and transparent wind-down of activities. Instead the respondent abandoned his practice and files and computers (containing electronic files) had not been found at the offices,' it said.
The tribunal said Adun was 'completely culpable', and his motivation 'had been financial and his actions planned'.
The tribunal ordered Adun to be struck off the roll and pay £14,000 costs.