Attorneys accused of acting like ‘loan sharks’
Durban - Two seasoned legal practitioners are required to show why they should not be struck off the roll of practising attorneys, considering the allegations of unprofessional and ethical conduct against them.
Operating like “loan sharks”, charging exorbitant legal fees and not acting in the best interests of their clients are some of the allegations attorneys Aslam Munga and Imranne Bux face.
The pair, who are partners in the Verulam law firm, Bux and Associates, were expected to provide a response to the strike-off application brought against them by the KZN division of the Legal Practice Council (LPC), the regulatory body for legal practitioners.
Their matter was due to be heard at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, but was withdrawn after the attorneys indicated they planned to challenge the LPC action.
A new court date is due to be set. In the LPC’S court documents, Shabeer Joosub, a businessman, and Doctor Ahmed Manjra were listed as the complainants.
Joosub agreed to buy two properties in Cornubia, one worth R3-million and the other R5m.
Bux handled dealings with Joosub, but failed to provide progress reports on the sales, in spite of Joosub’s appeals.
That’s after Joosub paid R4.2m into Bux and Associates’ bank account in lieu of the properties in August 2016. But then he learnt that R2.95m was used to secure a shareholding in a close corporation and R200 000 went to Priyesh Raghavejee.
Only R1.05m went towards the two properties.
Raghavjee, a friend and business partner of Joosub, according to Bux, was giving the instructions for dealings with the law firm.
Joosub engaged his own attorney, Fathima Rajah, to address his concerns and terminate the mandate with Bux.
In a letter to Bux in April 2017, she accused him of “muddying the waters” as the R4.2m paid was purely towards the Cornubia properties, and demanded a full refund.
Bux insisted he was acting on Raghavjee’s instructions.
Raghavjee, in an affidavit, confirmed his support for Joosub’s complaint that he did not grant anyone authority to deal on his behalf.
Joosub approached the LPC and inspectors were appointed to investigate his allegations.
They claimed to have found irregularities and that Bux and Munga owed Joosub duty of care as a purchaser and his instructions for the Cornubia properties should have been complied with.
Dr Manjra went the LPC route in October 2017.
He accused Bux and Munga of luring him into investment of R1m by way of false pretences.
The R1m was for brokerage fees, according to Munga, to a third party, who helped in Manjra’s 2015 purchase of a Clare Estate service station.
Munga was Manjra’s attorney for many years and handled his investments and legal affairs.
One investment included R1m into the fuel retail business the two attorneys operated, and Manjra received a 15% annual return.
A further R550 000 investment was made in February 2013, and Manjra received regular returns.
But in June 2016, he heard they were lending money at exorbitant interest rates, he became concerned and requested his outlay be returned.
He was repaid in instalments until March 2017, by then he was owed R62 000. Rajah also represented Manjra and accepted a settlement of R575 000.
LPC inspectors noticed the attorneys induced Manjra into a deal that caused him severe financial loss and regarded their conduct as “unsavoury”.
However, attorney Yayah Hassan, representing the two attorneys said his clients were senior legal practitioners in good standing with the LPC and intended to defend their reputation.
He said the versions of the complainants differed significantly to that held by their clients, and the media was not the space to air their differences.
He viewed the strike-off application as premature as the LPC had previously decided to convene an internal enquiry, based on the complaints. The decision not to proceed with the inquiry was not rescinded.
Instead, the matter was referred to the high court.
Hassan believed there was no guarantee the matter would be reinstated in court as the LPC was considering covening an enquiry.
He said his clients had every intention of participating in a properly constituted enquiry.