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LPDT reserves decision on misconduct charges

06 Jun 2024 / regulation Print

LPDT reserves decision on misconduct charges

A solicitor who did not have professional-indemnity insurance is facing misconduct allegations in connection with his work for an immigration advisory firm that did not deliver services for which it charged.

The Law Society issued a warning notice about the firm in 2019, saying that it did not authorise or regulate it.

The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal has heard that Nigerian-born Festus Ibi breached the Solicitors Act by acting as an agent for several unqualified individuals, who thereby set themselves out as solicitors.

Ibi was pursued by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) following complaints from five immigrant clients of the firm.

On Tuesday, the tribunal reserved its decision on five counts of alleged misconduct. Reserving its decision, tribunal chairman Andrew Harvey said that it would need to give careful consideration to each individual complaint.

Further criminal proceedings relating to the firm, but not involving Ibi, are before the courts.

Elaine Finneran BL, counsel for the LSRA, said that Ibi had admitted he did not have professional indemnity insurance, but had stated that he didn’t think it was needed, despite his presence at client meetings doing the work of a solicitor.

Complainant paid €1,600

The barrister said one complainant paid €1,600 to the firm in a bid to bring her family to Ireland from Zimbabwe.

A man from Malawi also paid €1,000 to get his ­brother a visa to come to Ireland. This man, she said, had claimed that Ibi sold him a dream, and that he felt manipulated.

The barrister said that the LPDT had heard evidence that Ibi was aware that the business was posing as a solicitors’ firm, yet continued to work there until a garda raid in October 2019.

Ibi’s solicitor John O’Dwyer stated that his client did not give any legal advice or handle any money for the complainants.

He said that Ibi had been “newly qualified and inexperienced” and was duped “as much as anyone else”.

Dwyer also said that only one of the five complainants had named Ibi in their original complaint. Urging the tribunal to dismiss the complaints, he claimed that the LSRA was seeking to have Ibi held “liable for matters he was not responsible for”.

Gazette Desk
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