Having to check a client’s identity can be a pain for the client and solicitor. However, the anti-money laundering legislation, which drives the need for checks, is designed to protect clients and solicitors from criminals. There was a timely reminder about this recently, sadly at the expense of a local client and solicitor.
The solicitor unsuspectingly helped a man steal money from his ex-wife.
The solicitor was asked by a colleague to help with a new mortgage application but failed to carry out any ID checks on the man or the woman alleging to be his ex-wife. She turned out to be someone else.
The phoney ex-wife told the solicitor that she did not have ID with her but would return with it but not before a new Mortgage Deed for the advance of funds was signed and witnessed by the solicitor.
Once the funds arrived at the solicitor’s office from the lender, the money was released to the husband.
Four months later the real ex-wife received a letter from the lender demanding repayment of the loan that she knew nothing about.
That led to the ex-wife suffering health problems and a ‘lot of upset’ in the following 12 months it took to resolve the matter. The solicitor had to pay nearly £24,000 for his misconduct due to failing to carry out the appropriate identification checks.