• Application 11400-2015

• Admitted 1984

• Hearing 25-26 July, 25-28 October 2016

• Reasons 28 November 2016

The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.

The respondent had caused or permitted his firm to accept monies received from the Axiom Fund totalling £3,150,343.26 in circumstances where it was improper for him to do so, because as he knew or suspected the transactions pursuant to which the monies had been received were dubious. He had thereby breached principles 2 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.

The respondent had failed to pay the above monies into the firm’s client account or, if he wrongly but honestly believed that the funds received constituted office money, he had failed to pay the said monies into an office account whose sole purpose was to hold the monies pending their use for an authorised purpose, contrary to principles 2, 6, 8 and 10, and to rules 1.2(a), 1.2(b) and 14.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.

The respondent had misappropriated or caused or permitted the misappropriation of about £3,150, 341.56, being the money received from the investment fund, and had thereby acted in breach of principles 2 and 6.

On 14 October 2011 the respondent had transferred £32,000 from client to office account, which was a transfer of unallocated funds, and had thereby misused client money and acted in breach of principles 2 and 6, and rule 20 of the rules.

On 15 November 2011, the respondent had transferred £40,000 from client account to office account, which was a transfer of unallocated funds and had thereby misused client money and acted in breach of principles 2 and 6, and rule 20 of the rules.  

The respondent had acted dishonestly in relation to each of the above allegations.

The respondent’s motivation was to keep the firm in business, and to pay off his practice and personal debts. His actions were clearly planned. Over £3m was drawn down and misused by the firm. The Axiom Fund lost in excess of £4.5m. As at the date of the hearing, only a small proportion of the monies owed had been repaid.

The respondent’s conduct was aggravated by his proven dishonesty. He had sought to conceal his wrongdoing and had shown very little insight into his misconduct.

The only appropriate and proportionate sanction was to order that he be struck off the roll.

The respondent was ordered to make an interim payment of £100,000 to the SRA no later than Friday 25 November 2016, on account of costs pending detailed assessment.