Crooked attorney struck off roll over 'startling and disturbing' conduct

2018-11-29 13:14
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Durban-based attorney Krishan Moodley has been struck from the roll of attorneys for stealing money from clients.

In addition, KwaZulu-Natal Judge Piet Koen, with Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel concurring, ordered that his conduct be reported to prosecuting authorities so they can investigate whether he should be charged criminally.

Moodley has been a lawyer in the city since 1989.

Evidence before the judges showed that he handled a conveyancing matter in 2017 for husband and wife Amod and Sardia Kareem, who sold a property for just over R1m.

When the transfer went through, the proceeds were not in his trust account, although he paid most of the money by July that year.

Moodley, in opposing the striking-off application launched by the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, argued that he had applied for a loan and, while waiting for it to come through, he used the couple's money. He described it as an "unauthorised loan".

Begged for forgiveness

"It was an error of judgement on my part. I quickly remedied the situation."

He said this should not be regarded as a defect in his character. He begged the Kareems for forgiveness, who forgave him and withdrew their complaint to the law society.

"I have sought counselling and assistance from my guru and priest," he said, assuring that he would now conduct himself properly.

But Judge Koen was not convinced that it was an isolated incident.

He said Moodley had not given an explanation about findings of a law society investigations committee, which unearthed "a number of accounting deficiencies and prima facie evidence of misappropriation of trust money".

"The trust receipt book, inspected in February 2018, was only completed up until September the previous year ... and the inspection committee members concluded that it had only been written up for the purpose of the inspection."

He said he did not maintain a fee journal, nor trust and business transfer journals.

'Startling and disturbing'

He said he simply transferred money from his trust to his business account as and when he needed funds, treating these as unauthorised loans.

"This is startling and disturbing," Judge Koen said.

"It also appeared that he had used his trust account to pay school fees and to pay salaries.

"We do not view his conduct as merely negligent, but probably more correctly as fraud."

Judge Koen said Moodley had lost sight of the important objective that the best interests of clients could not take a back seat to any temporary personal difficulties he may have experienced.

"He simply cannot use trust funds as if they are his own. And this would have continued had this conduct not been detected.

"His conduct reveals a deep-seated flaw in his professional character." 

Read more on:    durban  |  judiciary  |  courts
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