A BRADFORD law firm has been shut down following the conviction of its managing partner for defrauding the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) out of nearly £600,000.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced that Chambers Solicitors has been closed with immediate effect.
The decision comes after the company’s boss Mohammed Ayub, 55, was convicted of conspiracy to defraud following a five-week trial at Sheffield Crown Court that ended on November 23.
His brother, Mohammed Riaz, 48, and the firm’s immigration supervisor Neil Frew, 48, were also found guilty of the same charge.
A spokesman for the SRA said the grounds of its intervention were that there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Ayub, and a necessity to exercise powers to protect the interests of his clients or the beneficiaries of any trust of which he is or was a trustee.
The spokesman said: “The SRA has intervened into the practice of Mohammed Ayub at Chambers Solicitors, at 37 Grattan Road, Bradford, and at New Commerce House, 168 Westgate, Wakefield.
“The practising certificate of Mohammed Ayub has been automatically suspended, so he cannot practice as a solicitor.
“An intervention means the SRA has closed a firm with immediate effect.
“It will stop the firm from operating, take possession of all documents and papers held by the firm, and take possession of all money held by the firm.
“It is not responsible towards employees or trade creditors of firms that it has intervened in.
“The SRA has appointed an agent to deal with all matters currently held by Chambers Solicitors.
“The agent will assess all ongoing matters and deal with those of greatest need first.
“Clients of Chambers Solicitors do not need to contact either the agent or the SRA at this time.
“If anyone does have a query, however, they can contact the agent, John Owen of Gordons LLP, on 01274 202137, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The spokesman said that the intervention did not relate to the Chambers Solicitors registered in Slough or Birmingham.
He added that the SRA would now complete its investigation before deciding on the appropriate course of action.
Ayub, of Aireville Drive, Shipley, Riaz, of Southfield Square, Manningham, and Frew, of Hoyle Court Drive, Baildon, were found guilty of forming a sham company called Legal Support Services (LSS), run by Riaz, to claim inflated expenses or disbursements from the LAA for immigration and asylum contract work awarded to Chambers from September, 2010 to October, 2014.
Almost £600,000 was paid into LSS accounts over a four-year period but the firm was practically “invisible”, paying no corporation tax, VAT or utility bills.
The postal address for LSS was Fulton Street in Bradford city centre, only 20 yards from Chambers Solicitors in Grattan Road.
The trio are currently on bail ahead of a sentencing hearing scheduled for January next year.
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