A solicitor has been struck off the roll for ‘deliberate, calculated and repeated’ dishonesty – including overcharging a client by 500%.
A disciplinary tribunal found that Premji Naran Patel, a sole practitioner at Alliance Solicitors, had ‘systematically abused’ client monies, overcharged for work and had deliberately misled his clients. Alliance Solicitors, based in Harrow, was closed down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2013.
According to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal findings, Patel used client monies from one of his client’s estates, referred to as the RG estate, both for his own benefit and for the benefit of other clients, and to the detriment of the estate’s beneficiaries.
This included £4,000 to pay the firm’s professional indemnity insurance (PII), at a time when the office account did not have enough money to otherwise cover the cost, and £65,747 to cover the costs relating to another estate, the MR estate.
The tribunal found that Patel did this so as to conceal that there was a debit balance on the MR estate, and had produced an incorrect schedule of costs to mislead the beneficiaries of the RG estate.
The tribunal said that in doing this he had ‘subordinated the interests of his clients to his own’. Both the beneficiaries, named as PG and KG by the tribunal, suffered financially after they had to wait 17 months after RG’s death to receive any remuneration from the estate.
The tribunal said the delay was deliberate, to allow Patel to use the estate monies for the benefit of the firm and his other clients.
Patel was also found to have put other client monies at risk by using funds from one client account to cover his and counsel’s costs before receiving sufficient funds to make those transfers. According to the tribunal he also overcharged one client by at least £58,739.81 plus VAT, five times the cost of the work done.
The tribunal said: ‘His actions were planned and calculated to assist either himself or his other clients. He had abused the trust placed in him by PG and KG causing them to suffer financially whilst he deliberately and calculatedly delayed in distributing the RG estate.’
It said that his actions caused harm not just to PG and KG, but also to the trust the public places in the legal profession.
The tribunal said his conduct was aggravated by his ‘proven dishonesty which was deliberately calculated and repeated, and was in material breach of his obligation to protect the public and maintain confidence in the reputation of the profession.’
It said: ‘[Patel] systematically abused client monies for an extended period of time, causing harm to the beneficiaries of the RG estate. There had been a clear conflict between the interests of PG and KG in the timely distribution of the estate and the respondent’s decision to use the estate monies.’
Patel was struck off and ordered to pay costs of £35,000.