7 Solicitors

Ex-solicitor disbarred for misappropriating client funds

A barrister and academic, who was struck off the roll of solicitors last year, has been disbarred, a bar tribunal has ruled. Rajesh Babajee, an unregistered barrister and former sole practitioner, was found to have misappropriated £45,000 of client funds as part of a conveyancing transaction in 2009.

The Bar Standards Board said the ruling would serve ‘as an important reminder that barristers have a duty to report disciplinary action by another regulator’.

A Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in May last year heard Babajee had charged an ‘incredible and unrealistic’ fee for conveyancing work. The misappropriation of client money related to a property sale on behalf of a client referred to as ‘Mr C’. £110,000 was sent to Mr C by Babajee, leaving a balance of £45,000, which had been ‘misappropriated’. He was struck off following the hearing.

A disciplinary hearing at the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Tribunal, in which he was found guilty of the same offence, took place yesterday.

Babajee did not attend the hearing.

Appearing for the Bar Standards Board, which brought the case, Kakoly Pande of The 36 Group said Babajee had ‘chosen not to engage’ with the regulator.

The tribunal heard that as no fixed address was available for Babajee charge sheets were sent to his former workplace. Babajee was also a law lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Mauritius campus but resigned after being struck off.

The BSB said it had been in email contact with Babajee up until last year but that he had failed to respond to any emails detailing the charges.

Kakoly said that to adjourn the hearing, or wait until Babajee was present, would delay matters unnecessarily and would not enable the BSB to act in an expeditious way by ensuring that acts of misconduct are dealt with in a timely manner.

The tribunal’s chairman, His Honour John Rylance, said it was clear Babajee had failed to co-operate in any way with the proceedings and that he must be assumed to have absented himself voluntarily.

‘He has been given plenty of opportunities to give his account but has not given any account,’ Rylance added.

A BSB spokesperson said: ‘Dishonestly misappropriating client funds is incompatible with the behaviour expected from members of the bar. The tribunal’s decision to disbar Babajee reflects this.