Friday 21 July 2017

Solicitor's assets frozen after claims cash used for boat

Aodhan O Faolain

THE High Court has frozen the assets of a solicitor after hearing money had been taken from his client account and used to pay charges for his marine boat.

An order was also made to suspend the practising certificate of Alexander Gibbons, who it is claimed withdrew large sums of money from his firm's client account.

The orders were granted yesterday after the court was informed that Mr Gibbons, who practises as Gibbons & Co Solicitor Riverside, Kent Street, Clonakilty, Co Cork, has a €430,000 deficit in his client account.

The Law Society of Ireland sought the orders after it "formed the view" that Mr Gibbons, who is the principal of the firm and has been working as a solicitor since 1989, "has been guilty of dishonesty".

An accountant with the society who investigated the solicitor's accounts found that payments from the client account were made to parties including an employee of Mr Gibbons, Bandon Grammar School and for Mr Gibbon's marina boat charge.

Mr Justice Garret Sheehan granted the orders, following an ex-parte application made by Patrick Leonard Bl on behalf of the Law Society of Ireland.

As well as being suspended from practising, the orders prevent Mr Gibbons from dissipating his assets. In addition, no bank can make any payment out of any account in the name of Mr Gibbons' firm.

The judge made the matter returnable before the High Court early next week when the Law Society intends to seek further orders against Mr Gibbons.

These include that he swears affidavits giving an explanation of the various matters arising out of the investigation of his firm, as well as full disclosure of his assets and bank accounts.

Complying

In an affidavit, Mr Edward Sheehan, an investigating accountant with the Law Society, said he attended Mr Gibbons' practice last December to investigate if he have been complying with solicitors' accounting regulations.

Mr Sheehan said that he discovered that some records were not up to date and a deficit in the firm's client account of €63,000. That money, relating to stamp duty, was lodged in Mr Gibbons' personal account.

Mr Sheehan said he believed Mr Gibbons "had falsified the books in order to conceal that misappropriation", but was unable to complete his investigation as all the accounts had not been written up.

Mr Sheehan said that at a meeting of the Law Society's regulation of practice Committee on March 10 last, Mr Gibbons admitted the deficit of €63,000, and that his accounts were not up to date.

He was given time to make good the deficit and update the accounts.

Mr Sheehan said despite being given time, the committee received no independent evidence that the €63,000 was repaid. He re-attended the practice on June 9 last.

Mr Sheehan said from that investigation he discovered that as of the end of May 2011 there was a minimum estimated deficit of €430,958, mainly due to to unauthorised withdrawals from Mr Gibbons.

He discovered that last January €266,000 was withdrawn from the client account, while another €57,000 was withdrawn from the client bank account between February 1 and May 31 last.

He also found that €87,000 was withdrawn from the client account for Mr Gibbons' benefit between November 2009 and April 2010.

In addition, €15,000 from the sale of of shares in an estate in a probate matter was lodged to an office account and a client cheque for €257,000 was lodged to the office account in July 2010 and not rectified until October 2010.

Irish Independent

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