A solicitor who provided inaccurate and misleading information to the Solicitors Regulation Authority has been struck off the roll and ordered to pay costs of almost £50,000.
Alvina Zia, admitted in 2001, was the sole director of Manchester firm Obelisk Law Limited, which started trading in 2015. The firm was wound up in 2018 and the SRA intervened in 2020.
Zia faced eight allegations before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, most of which came to light as a result of an SRA investigation.
The allegations included that Zia transferred up to 293 client files from Obelisk Law Ltd to ACN Law without obtaining written consent; provided inaccurate and misleading information to the SRA; failed adequately to cooperate with and provide information to the SRA; provided inaccurate and misleading information to the insolvency service; and improperly held £23,702.37 in the client account of Obelisk Law.
She also provided immigration advice as a solicitor while she was not authorised to do so, and failed to cooperate with an investigation by the ombudsman and comply with its decision.
Zia admitted most of the charges. The tribunal did not find dishonesty in relation to Zia asking for clients’ consent to transfer files. It also accepted Zia’s submission that notice to clients was given and found there was no evidence that she had any further involvement with another company.
In the 29-page judgment, the SDT found Zia had ‘abused the trust’ of Client B who had asked the solicitor to progress her immigration matter.
The judgment said: ‘She had had no authority to act and none to take her money for work she was not permitted to carry out, which, in the event, she did not complete. Ms Zia was wrong to suggest that only she had suffered harm, Client B had been harmed as too had those clients whose consent had not been obtained to transfer their files.’
The SDT said Zia’s motivation had been ‘financial’. It added: ‘Ms Zia’s business had experienced difficulties and she had required income. This had not been spontaneous but a deliberate course of action in which she had mislead her regulator and others.’
The tribunal found Zia breached principles two, four, six, seven and eight of the SRA Principles 2011 as well as principle two of the SRA Principles 2019. In relation to two of the allegations the tribunal found she had acted dishonestly.
The SRA sought costs of £56,712.61, but this was reduced to £48,000 after considering the hearing had been listed for five days but only took two; Zia’s admissions; and little or no dispute between the parties.