Halifax firm’s lawyer cleared in immigration forgery case

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A lawyer with a Halifax-based firm who was wrongly accused of forging signatures on immigration applications has been cleared by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal which ruled that there was ‘no case to answer’.

Action was taken against immigration caseworker, Mohammed Ali Khan, by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which was seeking an order under Section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974 to prevent him being employed by any law firm after he was accused of forging several signatures on immigration application forms at Kher Solicitors, Leeds, where he worked.

He was sacked in November 2013 following an “emotionally charged disciplinary meeting” with the firm’s principal, Satpal Roth. She claimed that, in that meeting, Mr Khan admitted forging her signature and that of a colleague, and reported him to the SRA.

Mohammed Ali Khan had joined the firm, which has its head office in Sowerby Bridge, six months earlier and had set up the Leeds office in Roundhay Road bringing some of his own clients to the practice.

However, a Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in London on July 22 was told by regulatory specialist solicitor, Matthew Rowley, of Harrowells Solicitors, York, who represented Mr Khan, that Khers solicitors had failed to investigate the allegations and that those involved in the disciplinary meeting had lost track of what was said.

The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal heard that the notes of the meeting with Satpal Roth, taken by another solicitor, were confused and contradicted the allegations that Mr Khan had admitted forging the signatures, with very clear

records of his denials.

Both Satpal Roth and her colleague admitted under cross-examination by Matthew Rowley that the notes were unclear and that they had no hard evidence that Mohammed Ali Khan had forged any signatures.

Other staff, including an administrator, had access to the forms and could have forged the signatures but Satpal Roth confirmed that no other proper investigation or interviews had taken place.

Matthew Rowley told the tribunal that one forged signature was on part of a form which did not need a solicitor’s certification. Satpal Roth admitted that Mr Khan knew this and would have had no reason to forge an unnecessary signature.

The tribunal threw out the case without having to hear any defence after Matthew Rowley said that the lack of evidence bought by Capsticks, representing the SRA, showed that there was no case to answer. Mr Khan was awarded £5,000 costs to be paid by the SRA. In addition to the award of costs to Mr Khan, the SRA, which is funded through solicitors’ practicing fees, incurred more than £20,000 of its own legal costs.