SDT should not have proceeded against conveyancing solicitors

The present SDT rejected the SRA’s core contention that there were individual and cumulative signs of potential fraud which should have been obvious to a conveyancer of Ms Egoh’s experience.

“At first sight there was a considerable array of unusual features in this matter and the [SRA] relied on their cumulative effect…

“However having examined the factors based on all the evidence which was now before it… the tribunal did not find it proved on the evidence to the required standard that [Ms Egoh] had facilitated or acquiesced in a conveyancing transaction that bore the hallmarks of fraud and accordingly the associated allegation that she failed to act with integrity and/or acted in a way likely to undermine the public trust fell away.

“By way of example, the text of the undertaking given by [Ms Egoh] looked less than candid: but on inspection it was simply the document that she was asked to sign.

“The actions of Mr M, the solicitor who had sent the mortgage money without any of the actions a conveyancing solicitor would expect of the solicitor to a mortgage lender in such a matter, and who then on request simply removed the search supposed to protect those mortgage advances (and that it was the wrong search anyway), were so utterly extraordinary that no solicitor could be expected to contemplate the possibility that the moneys were actually mortgage advances.”

The tribunal said it “entirely understood” the SRA’s initial suspicions about the two solicitors, but continued: “However, it considered the actions of Mr M were so extraordinary that it was entirely understandable that the [Ms Egoh] would not realise that there was a problem.

“She was a transactional lawyer trying to get through a transaction. The tribunal considered that once Mr M’s case was determined, it was clear what he had done: there was then no reason [for the SRA] to proceed with the other allegations.”

The SDT also rejected the allegation that Ms Egoh had not co-operated with the SRA.

The pair were, however, found guilty of a “technical breach” of the accounts rules because the payments were improper as they were from monies which as a matter of fact did not belong to the firm’s clients, and they admitted that they allowed their client account to be used as a banking facility.

Sanctioning them, the SDT said Ms Egoh had undertaken numerous transactions “without difficulty or complaint or sanction”, while Mr Khalique had “an unblemished record and was not alleged to be personally responsible for the actions in question”.

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