Lawyer guilty of breaking money laundering rules

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A LAWYER has been found guilty for the second time in five years of breaking strict rules designed to stop money laundering.

Glasgow solicitor Eileen Coogans was given a three-year supervision order after she was found guilty of professional misconduct.

The hearing in Edinburgh was told that Ms Coogans, 62, did not carry out proper checks after a property was resold within days, netting a massive profit for the seller.

In 2007, the same lawyer was fined £4,000 after she admitted failing to record where money was coming from.

 

Misconduct

Strict regulations force lawyers to check that clients’ money is likely to have been legitimately obtained. This is to stop criminals and terrorists using respected institutions to launder their cash.

At a hearing of the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT), Ms Coogans faced two charges of professional misconduct.

Sean Lynch, representing the Law Society of Scotland, which prosecuted the case, said one of the charges involved breaking anti-money laundering guidelines.

He said Ms Coogans did not carry out due diligence when a property was sold on within a matter of days after being bought from a builder.

 

Deed

He told the hearing: “This is a situation where the purchaser of a property from a builder sold the property on within a matter of days for a profit of just short of £70,000.”

A second charge said she failed to record “standard security” – a mortgage deed which secures the loan against the property – when a client purchased a flat in Glasgow in 2007.

Ms Coogans was not present or represented at the hearing but Mr Lynch said she had been in contact and blamed this failure on an “administrative error”.

He told the hearing: “When all is said and done it’s her responsibility.

“This tribunal has always taken a serious view of failure to record deeds timeously.”

 

“Concerned”

Ms Coogans admitted the facts of the case, but not that they amounted to professional misconduct, said Mr Lynch.

But the panel, headed by chairwoman Kirsteen Keyden, found her guilty of professional misconduct on both counts.

She said the panel was “extremely concerned” over its duty to protect the public.

The supervision order means that for three years the lawyer will have to work for an approved law society firm under the supervision of other lawyers, and will be banned from being a full partner.

Mr Lynch said Ms Coogans was not currently practising law but did not wish the “door to be shut” on her legal career.

At the 2007 hearing, Ms Coogans admitted professional misconduct, including breaking money laundering regulations.

She was fined after repeated law society inspections found irregularities in the finances of her firm E Coogans and Co.

 

“Risk”

 

The solicitor failed to record where money was coming from and the firm’s accounts were found to be out of order.

At that hearing the panel concluded: “[Ms Coogans’] method of operating for a period of two years did put the public at risk.

“If solicitors fail to run their practices properly this results in standards not being maintained and the profession is brought into disrepute.

“In this case the Respondent’s business appeared to be successful but she had a professional responsibility to sort her systems out if she wished to continue to remain in business.”

She eventually brought in new accountants to help solve the problem.

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