The Insolvency Service has disqualified seven former solicitors from acting as directors after an investigation found their conveyancing firm Wolstenholme LLP had traded fraudulently.
Nasir Ilyas, Waseem Saddique, Mario Cardinali, Imran Hussain, Bilal Khawaja, Helen Murgatroyd and Bobby Shabbir have all been disqualified for between five and 15 years.
The company filed false stamp duty land transfer returns with the Land Registry and was also found to have inadequate financial controls to stop fraud occurring.
Wolstenholme LLP failed to maintain adequate accounting records, which meant the Solicitors Regulation Authority was unable to verify how an £8m client account shortfall had occured. The regulator was also unable to establish when the shortfall appeared, and was unable to clarify where a “significant amount” of the misappropriated funds were sent.
As a result of the company’s actions, the Solicitors Compensation Fund has paid out more than £13m in relation to more than 2,500 client claims. The payout is made up of £8m in missing client funds as well as additional compensation.
The company was closed down by the SRA in December 2009 and in May 2013, five of the seven disqualified solicitors were struck from the SRA register.
SRA executive director David Middleton says: “The tribunal recorded the fact that this was perhaps the most serious case it had ever dealt with and that there had been significant harm to the profession. This harm was to an extent mitigated by the prompt action of the SRA, the compensation fund and the intervention agents.
“The tribunal heard from clients who had suffered significant hurt by what had happened. It was to the credit of the compensation fund that the losses had been made good.”