You are here

Conveyancer who caused £9m debt heads for SDT

22 June 2010

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has initiated proceedings against a former conveyancing partner at defunct Berkshire firm Willmett Solicitors.

Jonathan Gilbert resigned from the firm in March 2009 after causing an estimated £9m of debt, leaving only a note to his former partners in which he apologised for “the mess” he had left them. He was declared bankrupt three months later.

Gilbert no longer has a practising certificate and his case is likely to be heard by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal early next year.

A spokesman for the SRA said the regulator was still working on the allegations against Gilbert but that they would likely include breach of undertakings and involvement in irregular property transactions.

He said it was not uncommon in such cases for allegations to also include acting in conflict of interest and dishonesty.

Last week the former solicitor signed a 15-year bankruptcy restriction undertaking with the Insolvency Service, the maximum term possible.

As a result he will be barred from being a company director, being the trustee of a charity or being in charge of a trust scheme such as a pension fund. He will also be unable to handle money on account and will have to disclose the bankruptcy if he applies for credit for more than £500.

The solicitor has less than £150,000 worth of realisable assets but his old firm is seeking to recover £5m from him. In a separate action, a mortgage lender is claiming £4m.

In the undertaking agreed with the Insolvency Service, Gilbert has accepted he abused the trust of his clients and breached his duties as a solicitor.

The Insolvency Service, which is acting for the Crown, has two years to conduct an investigation to uncover the existence on realisable assets on behalf of creditors.

In a separate development, the Legal Complaints Service has dropped its investigations into the conduct of a Midlands solicitor who acted for a number of property purchasers in the Egyptian resort of Hurghada.

The LCS opened a file after receiving complaints from investors that Philip Stephen George Morris had failed to carry out due diligence when acting on their behalf in the purchase of the holiday homes.

In a letter to the complainants on 9 June, the watchdog advised that it would not take the investigation further.

“The allegations were largely based on innuendos and hearsay,” an LCS spokesperson told Solicitors Journal.

He said the solicitor appeared to have “an unblemished record” and that it was the first time a complaint had been made against him.

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago a group of investors led by footballing legend Sir Geoffrey Hurst won their claim against a Spanish property developer.

The judge in Hurst and Ors v Michael Hone and Ors [2010] EWHC 1159 (QB) found that Hurst and the other claimants had been deceived into paying the whole of the purchase price for off-plan apartments on land for which the developer did not have good title.

Categorised in:

Risk & Compliance Regulators Courts & Judiciary