Cossack-dancing lawyer jailed for stealing £1m from clients' funds

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A solicitor who claimed he was too busy Cossack dancing to have stolen £1m from dead and injured clients was jailed for eight years yesterday.

Dymtryo Torkoniak, 36, from Ukraine, said staff at his firm had embezzled the cash while he was working to secure appearances with Kylie Minogue and Ali G for his international dance troupe.

The former solicitor, of Huntingdon Drive, Nottingham, claimed his devotion to dancing had begun at the age of four and that he had combined his legal duties with nightly appearances on stage.

Lincoln Crown Court was told that in four years Torkoniak siphoned funds from personal injury claims, the estates of the deceased and overcharged for legal aid. He put the money into offshore bond and bank accounts and bought two homes. Judge Johnathan Teare said that the father of three children stole from his godfather and the priest who christened his children. Torkoniak was convicted of 14 counts of theft totalling about £333,421, four charges of obtaining property by deception, one count of false accounting, one of forgery and one of perjury.

He claimed that he was an entertainment impresario and could not have committed the frauds between 1996 and 2001 because he was too busy. Police hope to recover about £1m from him.

Judge Teare said: "You have been convicted by a jury on clear evidence of serious dishonesty at a time when you were a solicitor. You abused that position to line your own pockets. You deceived the vulnerable, the injured, the disadvantaged, two people with little command of English and in three cases, the estates of the dead."

One client, Steven Buckley, had been awarded £100,000 compensation because of an accident, but received £18,000.

Jurors were told that Torkoniak, who had been a senior partner in three firms, destroyed documents before police raided his business premises and home.

Torkoniak was cleared of one charge of the theft of £800 from a personal injury client.