Conveyancer fined £7,500 after overlooking indicators of potential money laundering. When doing business with a family he had been instructed by previously.

Accepting that he had been ‘sloppy’, Daniel Mun Kin Tang ‘failed to distinguish between the personal and professional’. During a conveyance which had involved several investors. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal expressly stated that although the transaction had a ‘number of dubious features’, it was not dubious in itself.

Tang was born in 1980 and qualified in 2006, becoming a partner with Wembley firm Christopher Mathew Solicitors. Acting for a company regarding the purchase of three flats, he also arranged an investment agreement to go towards the transaction. However, when Tang sought to register a charge on the property, he failed to seek the consent of one the involved parties. Tang registered one of the owners as a sole lender. This was in despite of the presence of a written agreement stating that this would not occur.

Dealing with the family previously, Tang had originally been instructed by SK regarding an auctioned property in 2012. This was to be purchased by TP, a company owned by SK’s friend as well as his nephew.

£150,000 of the purchase money was funded by SK’s friend, Ms FA. Having received a loan from his father, the nephew contributed the same amount. As Ms FA would be channelling the fund for the purchase via SK, Tang was also requested by SK to create an investor agreement.

Stating that he had not acted in a way correspondent with the level of trust placed in both him and legal service provision. The tribunal said that Tang ‘had a duty to assess each case on its individual circumstances’. Although having dealt with the family on a previous occasion, his enquiries were found to have been ‘superficial’.

In order to protect both himself and the client in the event of a dubious transaction, ‘the respondent was required to undertake due diligence in respect of every person involved’. The tribunal stressed.

Failed to obtain consent

As Tang had also failed to obtain the consent of FA when naming the nephew as the lender, the tribunal found that public trust had been undermined. Stating that: ‘If an agreement required consent to a charge being registered, the public would not expect a solicitor to not obtain the relevant consent’.

Despite allowing SK to have charge of the purchase, the tribunal was unable to find that Tang has jeopardised his own independence. This was as Tang provided evidence indicating that the nephew had allowed SK to give instructions to him.

Inadequate handlings

The tribunal stated that given his level of experience, the way Tang had handled the transaction was not adequate. He had put the CQS accredited firm at risk.

For a solicitor with six years post-qualification experience at the time, he was a relatively experienced conveyancer. To conduct a file in this way was to place himself, the reputation of the firm, and the reputation of the profession at risk. And was therefore not adequate.

‘The lack of file was not acceptable. The respondent appeared to have fallen into a trap where he failed to distinguish between the personal and professional. Whilst he was doing business with a family, with whom he was acquainted.’

Tang also accepted the allegation that he should have advised Ms FA to seek independent legal advice.

However, the tribunal did not find that unfair advantage had been taken of Ms F. Stating that she has before represented herself in transactions and was a qualified lawyer.

The tribunal noted that since the transaction occurred, ‘rigorous conveyancing compliance checks and client care procedures’ had been put in place. By Christopher Mathew.

The tribunal also acknowledged that Tang ‘sincerely regretted his failures’. Expressed during mitigation, as well as accepting that his six-years’ post-qualification experience. Meaning that he was ‘relatively inexperienced’.

Tang’s misconduct stemmed from a single transaction and there had been no planning or financial gain. He was fined £7,500, and was also ordered to pay the full SRA costs, estimated to be over £32,000.

Check the CLC status

If you are looking for a conveyancing services, always check that the firm is CLC qualified. And that they are registered with the Society of Licensed Conveyors.