Lawyer tricks client with "breathtaking" fake proceedings
28 November 2014
The SRA and police are investigating a solicitor who tricked a client into believing he was in the middle of legal
proceedings for three years, for no apparent reason.
In his bizarre deception Andrew Benson, now ex-partner at Byrne &
Partners, faked meetings with Norton Rose Fulbright
, made accomplices pretend to be
barristers and wrote fictional Court of Appeal judgments.
Before he met Benson, Rajesh Mehta had spent eight years evading arrest and a £10
million payment by fleeing to Belgium, claiming to have a neck injury and then moving to India to
avoid extradition. When he instructed Benson to appeal the arrest order, Benson told him that he had retained Timothy Owen QC as counsel. This
was in fact balls, but it was only the first balls in what would become a
bollocks mountain. A few weeks later Benson told Mehta that he had also instructed
Lord Kenneth MacDonald QC. He had not, though he did send Mehta an advice note from
MacDonald, which he had written himself. When Mehta complained a month later
that MacDonald didn't seem to be getting anywhere, Benson agreed and showed
Mehta a complaint he'd drafted to his imaginary version of the barrister.
||You're in Benson's world now
Soon Benson was a one-man British legal system. Over three years he sent Mehta letters he claimed to have circulated to various judges, to
Norton Rose and to the UK Border Authority. Because it would have been odd if no-one replied, he also wrote letters and
emails back to himself from all of them. Benson also produced three counsel's opinions, two
submissions from the claimant's counsel and 15 court orders. And
three judgments from the Commercial Court and the Court of Appeal, one of which ran to 37 paragraphs and another of which Mr Justice Hamblen called "plausibly reasoned
". Benson even held conference calls in which accomplices pretended to
be his senior partner or a QC, while Mehta listened in from India.
Benson's ruse unravelled when a solicitor
assisting on the case became suspicious, presumably when everyone in every meeting was Benson putting on different voices. Hamblen, ruling on
whether Mehta should get another chance at an appeal on the basis that he has been trapped in Benson's fiction for three years, said the deceit was
". He also said that "much remains unclear, including his motives
", because Benson
doesn't seem to have made much, if any, extra money from his efforts, which involved
far more work than if he'd actually run the case in real life.