British police on Thursday said they have launched a criminal investigation into a UK law firm that has been reeling from allegations its former managing director misappropriated more than 64 million pounds ($78.1 million) of client money.
London’s Metropolitan Police said it had opened an investigation into the firm, Axiom Ince, following a referral by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
“We are aware of a report made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority,” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said in a statement. “Detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command have launched an investigation and enquiries are ongoing.”
An SRA spokesperson said the regulator has been “liaising with relevant law enforcement authorities.”
Axiom Ince did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the police investigation.
The firm was thrown into turmoil last month when the SRA suspended its managing director Pragnesh Modhwadia and two other senior lawyers at the firm, with Modhwadia suspended on the grounds that “there was reason to suspect dishonesty,” according to the regulator.
The SRA’s decision has prompted an exodus of dozens of lawyers to other firms.
Axiom, which has no connection to U.S. legal services provider Axiom Law, is suing Modhwadia at London’s High Court and has obtained a 64.5 million-pound freezing order over his assets.
Lawyers representing Axiom Ince said at a hearing this month that Modhwadia had admitted using client money to purchase properties and fund the firm’s acquisition of other law firms, including the previously-listed Ince & Co.
Modhwadia “has been engaging with the SRA and also with the representatives of the company (Axiom Ince),” his lawyer Timur Rustem told Reuters. “He is doing his utmost to try to resolve the issues that have arisen.”
Rustem said Modhwadia would cooperate with the police’s investigation.
A spokesperson for Axiom Ince said in a statement on Wednesday that its directors are coordinating with staff to help them find new employment.
“The board have worked closely with the SRA and external advisors to navigate the countless issues that have arisen throughout the course of recent weeks,” the statement said.
Source : Reuters