Solicitor denies money laundering and fraud claims

Corruption inquiry: Law Society has launched investigation into high-profile lawyer who represented footballers and Hillsborough families
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A high-profile lawyer, whose clients have included Liverpool Football Club, the footballer Robbie Fowler and victims of the Hillsborough disaster is being investigated by the Law Society over fraud, and schemes to launder money.

A high-profile lawyer, whose clients have included Liverpool Football Club, the footballer Robbie Fowler and victims of the Hillsborough disaster is being investigated by the Law Society over fraud, and schemes to launder money.

The solicitor Kevin Dooley, who has also represented footballers Stan Collymore, Graeme Souness, and Jamie Bulger's father, ran the successful law firm of Dooley & Co on Merseyside.

But in June his offices in Liverpool and Kirkby were raided by officials from the Law Society's regulatory branch, the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors. Documents were seized, and Mr Dooley's client files were taken.

Last month, in the High Court, Mr Dooley, 59, unsuccessfully challenged the OSS intervention. The case was held in secret but the reporting restrictions have been lifted, allowing The Independent to reveal the reasons.

The OSS intervened because they believed Mr Dooley was "knowingly and dishonestly" involved in bank instrument frauds and possibly money laundering. As intervention is a draconian act which often results in the closure of the firm, the OSS act only when they believe it is in the public interest.

The OSS have sent warnings to all solicitors about bank instrument frauds and money laundering. These widespread scams, usually based abroad, involve documents full of impressive phrases, which make little sense, and promise huge returns for small investments.

As the judge, Mr Justice Neuberger, in Mr Dooley's case, pointed out, solicitors are often asked to act for the fraudsters, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly, to give a veneer of respectability.

Mr Justice Neuberger was told Mr Dooley had met a John Silver in 1993. In 1995, Mr Dooley was approached by Mr Silver about a proposed investment by a Mrs Wang and Mrs Yu through a German company owned by Mr Silver. The investment scheme claimed to be a "leveraged trading programme", able to turn a $500,000 investment into $100m.

Mr Dooley's Midland Bank manager warned him in "no uncertain terms" not to become involved with Mr Silver, the proposed transaction was "specious" and the bank instrument could be forged.

But Mr Dooley went to Spain to meet Mr Silver and, said the judge, "decided Mr Silver could be trusted". In this case the scheme did not go much further and the clients got their money back. But Mr Dooley continued dealing with Mr Silver.

In summer 1996, the books of Dooley & Co underwent a routine inspection by a OSS official, and material relating to the John Silver transaction came to light. The official wrote to Mr Dooley warning him that they "have seen numerous examples of this type of transaction and in every case they [are]either fraudulent per se or part of a larger mechanism designed to facilitate a fraud".

Mr Dooley did not tell the OSS he had been approached again by Mr Silver in September 1996, acting for a Mr and Mrs Sheppard over proposed investment of $100,000 into a purported instrument.

The court heard Mr Dooley told Mr Silver the instrument was worthless. "There is nothing to show this advice was passed to Mr and Mrs Sheppard or not," said the judge. They lost their money. There were a dozen or so schemes handled by Mr Dooley for Mr Silver and his clients. Some came to fruition. But in one case, three of Mr Dooley's clients lost $1.4m. Mr Justice Neuberger said he was satisfied "this money has been stolen".

Although the court heard Mr Dooley told the National Crime Intelligence Squad of each purported transaction and clients, had earned little from the deals and retrieved money for some clients, the judge said he was unhappy about other actions. He had allowed Mr Silver to use Dooley & Co's office address in Kirby as a business address. Mr Dooley had given Mrs Silver a reference although he had never met her. Mr Dooley also was involved in another investment scheme, "which involved keeping the name of a Mr Rivlin from the reputable parties, because Mr Rivlin was known not to be honest".

Mr Justice Neuberger said: "When one takes all these points together, they appear to me, at least in the absence of points to the contrary, to produce an irresistible basis for concluding there are grounds for suspecting dishonesty on the part of Mr Dooley. Not, I emphasise, for concluding that Mr Dooley has been dishonest."

Mr Dooley's barrister said he had "gradually became mired in a state of suspension of disbelief from which he did not emerge until after the intervention, when he was forced to consider, in detail and in aggregate, all the various instruments and their terms".

Mr Justice Neuberger said, "I accept that, just as there are grounds for suspecting dishonesty, there are grounds for suspecting no dishonesty; stupidity, possibly even incompetence, but not dishonesty."

The judge rejected Mr Dooley's attempt to overturn the intervention and he may face a tribunal next year. There is no suggestion any of Mr Dooley's prominent clients was involved in suspicious schemes.

The investigation continues.