Two of the cases only became evident to the parties as they unwilling committed bigamy.
A British Asian lawyer has confessed to playing a role in issuing false divorces. Already jailed for fraud, he has admitted his failures to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Mohammed Ayub, aged 58-years-old, explained he failed to supervise a work experience student at Chambers Solicitors in Bradford.
The student, only identified as “Anna”, provided false decree absolutes to three married couples.
This took place between 2010 and 2012, while Mohammed served as the sole equity partner. They were purportedly issued at Bradford County Court.
The 58-year-old admitted to failing to supervise staff involved in divorce proceedings and failure to deal with the complaints relating to the cases. Mohammed made the confession after being convicted of fraudulently claiming money from the Legal Aid.
As a result, he has been struck off from the legal profession.
Police initially investigated five separate cases between 2008 and 2012 at Chambers. In two of them, the certificate did not refer to the parties involved. In the third, the document didn’t even exist. The tribunal concluded that they were “forgeries”.
Perhaps most shocking of all, two of the cases only became evident to the parties as they unwilling committed bigamy. In 2010, one client received an envelope containing the false document and was told their divorce was finalised.
During the following year, the client remarried in Bangladesh. Upon returning to the UK, they applied for a visa for their partner to enter the country. However, the UK Border Agency refused the application, saying the decree absolute was false.
After visiting Bradford County Court, they discovered the document related to another couple. Meaning they had to go through divorce proceedings again. The tribunal heard how this left the client “extremely upset”.
In the second case, a client received a decree absolute in 2011 and remarried in the following year. However, they only realised it was fake after a family meeting, where they realised the reference number linked to a different couple.
All three resulted in the couples having to renew their divorce proceedings. At the time, then-assistant solicitor Miriam Yousaf dealt with them. In a statement to police, she said:
“I believe that a junior member of staff, instead of applying to the court for a decree absolute may have created fraudulent decree absolute documents and passed them off as genuine documents from the court, duping me also.”
“I can only speculate that if fraudulent decree absolute documents have passed through my hands to clients then I too have been duped as to their authenticity by Anna, who was delegated the task of setting up files and drafting the divorce petitions.”
While the tribunal didn’t accuse her of involvement in the false documents, they fined her £15,000. Miriam also had to pay £5,361.40 for costs.
Mohammed Ayub also had to pay £4,139.34, with the tribunal report stating:
“Mr Ayub accepts that the seriousness of his admitted misconduct is such that neither a reprimand, a fine, or being suspended from practice would be a sufficient sanction.”
Since the investigation, police have not been able to trace the student “Anna”.