A former partner and lawyer at Chamber Solicitors in Bradford who is serving a prison sentence for fraud has admitted his role in the issuing of false divorce certificate.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that Mohammed Ayub, 56, did not properly supervise a work experience student who issued false decree absolutes to three different couples while working at Chamber Solicitors in Graton Road, Bradford from 2010 to 2012.
The parties involved in 2 of the cases only found out that they were issued false decree absolute after unknowingly committing bigamy.
Ayub is also convicted of fraudulently claiming tens of thousands of pounds from legal aid agency.
The tribunal was told that Ayub has admitted failing to supervise the process of divorce proceedings at Chambers by a work experience student known only in reports as ‘Anna’.
Five separate cases of decree absolute were investigated by police where in one case the documents didn’t exist at all, and on other two the documents were not of the parties involved.
The tribunal report said that all three documents which were said to be issued at Bradford County Court were “therefore forgeries”.
One of the client who given the certificate at the reception of Chambers office and was told that the divorce was finalised.
The client believed it and went Bangladesh and got married again, upon return to the UK he applied for his spouse’s visa which was rejected by UK border Agency as the absolute decree was fake.
The person went to Bradford County Court and was told that the decree absolute he had was of someone else. He had to apply for a fresh divorce proceedings.
In another case a client was given a decree absolute in 2011 and the person registered another marriage in the UK in 2012.
It was only during a later family mediation meeting that the person found out that the absolute decree was not his and the reference number on their paper was of a different couple.
In the last case where the couple was given a decree absolute in 2012 and in the following year the client’s Ex-spouse applied for contact arrangements to be made for their son.
It was in that hearing that the couple found out that their decree absolute was fake and had to start a fresh Divorce proceedings.
All three couples were clients of Chambers and were dealt with by Miriam Yousaf, 36, then an assistant solicitor at the firm.
Anna worked at Chambers from 2009 to gain work experience which was unpaid for about three or four years, said the report presented to the tribunal.
In a statement about Anna made to police, Ms Yousaf said: “She would come in on and off, sometimes regularly like clockwork once a week and other times she wouldn’t be in for weeks/months at a time.
“She told me she was studying law at one of the Leeds universities and so couldn’t come in during the day but could only come in to assist on evenings or weekends.
“I don’t know for a fact that she was actually studying anywhere and it may have been a cover for her in attempting to gain access to a solicitor’s office.”
Ms Yousaf continued: “I believe that a junior member of staff, instead of applying to the court for a decree absolute may have created fraudulent decree absolute documents and passed them off as genuine documents from the court, duping me also.
“I can only speculate that if fraudulent decree absolute documents have passed through my hands to clients then I too have been duped as to their authenticity by Anna, who was delegated the task of setting up files and drafting the divorce petitions.”
Anna was the person who would take on divorce cases and had access to the firm’s case management system.
The report read: “No records relating to Anna have been kept which made it impossible to locate the person for enquiries to be made of her, especially as no-one can remember her surname.”
Ms Yousaf said: “I cannot remember Anna’s surname. She was Eastern European, from Czech Republic I think. She had an Eastern European accent.”
The report stated that after Anna stopped working at the firm, it was discovered that the files she had worked on were “incomplete and had paperwork missing”.
The tribunal was told that Chambers does not have any record of Anna’s personal details and that the police can’t trace her
Ms Yousaf is now a partner at Adamson Solicitors in Birmingham and holds a unconditional practising certificate.
Ms Yousaf is not accused in the issuing of false decree absolute, but admitted to a lack of supervision.
The report stated that she offers her “sincere apologies” to the clients who have been deceived and that she was “deeply ashamed” to appear before the tribunal, describing it as the “worst day of her professional life.”
She was fined £15,000, and ordered to pay costs of £5,361.40.
Ayub, who was ordered to pay £4,139.34 in costs, admitted failing to supervise staff involved in divorce proceedings, and a failure to deal with the complaints relating to the cases involved.
The tribunal report stated: “The respondent admitted the allegations against him in their entirety.
“Mr Ayub accepts that the seriousness of his admitted misconduct is such that either a reprimand, a fine, or being suspended from practice would be a sufficient sanction.
“Mr Ayub accepts that the protection of the public and the protection of the reputation of the profession justifies him being struck off the Roll of Solicitors.”
In June this year Ayub his brother Mohammed Riaz, 50, and solicitor Neil Frew, 49, were found guilty of fraudulently claiming tens of thousands of pounds of interpreter’s fee from the legal aid agency, a Government body that administers the legal aid claim.
Ayub was sentenced to three years and six months for a fraud of £160,873.
Riaz was sentenced for two years and nine months.
Frew received a suspende two year jail sentence and was ordered to pay £846.64 in costs.
All three were struck off the Roll of solicitors.