Solicitors suspended over tax avoidance schemes after SRA appeal
New sanction sends out strong message about the need to act with integrity, says SRA
Two solicitors have been suspended for three years by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for their involvement in operating tax avoidance schemes.
The decision comes after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) denounced the original sanction - a £15,000 fine - as being not strong enough.
Richard Chan and Rajob Ali were partners of Abode Solicitors in Harrogate when the regulator closed the firm down in October 2013.
In September 2014, the SDT issued a fine to the pair for operating various stamp duty land tax (SDLT) avoidance schemes. This included advising clients through their own separate Seychelles-based business, which took a commission.
However, a year later the Divisional Court agreed that the case should be reheard, stating that the pair had shown a lack of integrity, acted where there was a conflict of interest, and taken part in transactions that were dubious.
The matter was sent back to the SDT on 21 April, which decided on a three-year suspension back dated to September 2015. Chan and Ali were also ordered to pay further costs of £5,500.
The SRA's executive director, David Middleton, welcomed the decision: 'Mr Chan and Mr Ali were not acting in their clients' best interests when involving them in these schemes - they were acting without integrity and their independence had been compromised.
'We warned solicitors in 2012 that there was a risk of serious consequences if they did not comply with the professional principles while promoting or facilitating SDLT avoidance schemes.
'Solicitors need to do the right thing and act with integrity. This new sanction sends out a strong message about how important that is.'