A former law student who posed as a qualified solicitor and set up a “sham” legal practice in Bradford has been jailed for four years and eight months.
After opening Manningham-based KSA Law Partners in 2005 Khuram Ali advised unsuspecting clients about immigration and insolvency matters, divorces and boundary disputes.
Although Ali, of Avenham Way, Bradford, had not become a fully qualified solicitor, his dishonest activities continued for almost two years and he even ignored a warning about his conduct from the Institute of Legal Executives.
Ali, who did have a law degree and had undertaken further legal training, failed to attend a Court hearing for one client in a boundary dispute which resulted in a costs order of £20,000 being made against the man.
The father-of-four then failed to tell the man when a bankruptcy petition was obtained against him and even forged a county court document suggesting that the case could be settled for £2,500.
Prosecutor Richard Clews said Ali’s actions resulted in the man being made bankrupt without even knowing the procedure was being undertaken. The court heard how Ali, now 33, tricked another client into handing over £8,000 in cash and that victim ended up having to fight bankruptcy proceedings.
Mr Clews said Ali was also involved in perverting the course of justice by trying to obtain divorces for husbands without informing their wives about the proceedings.
A county court judge raised concerns about four divorce petitions submitted by Ali and hand-writing analysis indicated the defendant had completed forms and forged signatures on the documents.
In another case involving a female client, Ali forged a divorce decree and when the woman sought confirmation from the court she discovered she was not legally divorced.
During the investigation into Ali’s activities a number of false “decree absolute” orders were seized.
Last year Ali admitted a series of offences including being an unqualified person acting as a solicitor, perverting the course of justice, theft, fraud, forgery and obtaining property by deception.
He also pleaded guilty to providing immigration advice and services in breach of the Immigration and Asylum Act.
Mr Clews said Ali held himself out as offering immigration advice when he was plainly unqualified and unable to do so with any propriety. “'Counts 11 and 12 reflect the fact that rather than acting in an altruistic fashion, attempting to help vulnerable people, he was motivated by making a profit... charging each client several hundred pounds for his unlawfully given and indeed worthless advice,” said Mr Clews.
One woman paid Ali £1,450 to deal with her husband's immigration case and when she later gave a him a cheque for £335 he altered it and paid it into his own account.
The court heard that Ali made no comment when he was initially arrested in 2008 and then again in 2010.
Barrister Balbir Singh, for Ali, conceded that the offences individually and taken together crossed the custody threshold, but he urged Judge Robert Bartfield to take account of his client's physical and mental health, his guilty pleas and his family circumstances. The court was told that Ali himself was declared bankrupt in 2007 and Mr Singh said he had expressed remorse for the offending.
Judge Robert Bartfield said Ali’s offending demonstrated “utter contempt” for the law, those involved in it and the clients who believed in him.
He said that the case inevitably undermined public confidence and trust in lawyers and a strong message needed to go out to others.
“KSA Law Partners was an enterprise that was dishonest from its inception. Sometimes legitimate firms start off honestly and then fall prey to dishonesty but this was dishonest from the outset,” said Judge Bartfield.
Judge Bartfield noted that the divorce cases could have gone through had it not been for the “sharp-eyed” observations of a district judge at Bradford County Court.
After the case, Detective Inspector Fran Naughton said: “Ali demonstrated a total disregard for the UK’s legal system and often left vulnerable people in distressing situations as a result of his incompetency.
“I am delighted with the sentence that has been passed down by the court today and I hope it offers some solace to those who suffered as a result of Ali’s dishonesty.”