A solicitor who abandoned his firm, which was located within a hairdressing salon, has been struck off.
Venkateshwarlu Bandla, who was admitted to the roll in 2007, was the sole director of Ven Solicitors Limited in East Ham, London.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal was satisfied Bandla misled the Solicitors Regulation Authority regarding his firm's professional indemnity insurance policy for the 2015/16 practising year by stating his firm was insured by AIG Europe Ltd 'when it clearly was not'.
The tribunal, in a judgment published this week, said 'this was a planned and calculated act as he had taken the policy number from a previous indemnity insurance policy'. The tribunal was also satisfied he abandoned his firm.
The May hearing was heard in Bandla's absence. The judgment states that enquiry agents traced Bandla to an address in India, where he was living with his mother. His mother was served with papers on 2 March, which she assured she would pass on to her son, who was out of town at the time. Bandla was subsequently served personally on 29 March, when his mother was present, with a tribunal memorandum referring to the proceedings and the hearing date.
The judgment states that the firm's premises were contained within a hairdressing/beauty salon. It did not have a separate street entrance but did have a separate internal door.
A forensic investigation officer was unable to access the firm's premises on four occasions in January 2016. On each occasion there was no one present at the firm and the officer saw unopened post on the floor. There was no sign to indicate the firm had closed. There was no response from the firm's landline number, Bandla's mobile number or an email to him. The officer saw several files in the office, which could have been client files. The woman who ran the hairdressing salon told the officer she had not seen Bandla for about two months. In February 2016, Bandla's ex-wife told the SRA that Bandla had left the country in mid-November and returned to India.
The judgment says Bandla may have had health issues but there was no actual mitigation or supporting evidence as he had not engaged in the tribunal proceedings.
As well as being struck off, Bandla was ordered to pay £7,552.99 costs.