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A disgraceful conman, an over-zealous libel firm, and the question of press freedom  Mm11

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A disgraceful conman, an over-zealous libel firm, and the question of press freedom

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Post by sharonl on 28.03.13 15:46

A disgraceful conman, an over-zealous libel firm, and the question of press freedom

http://wrightblog.dailymail.co.uk/2013/03/a-disgraceful-conman-an-over-zealous-libel-firm-and-the-question-of-press-freedom.html

As legal letters go, it was about as strongly-worded as they come.

Over four pages, Carter-Ruck Solicitors complained in the fiercest terms about a series of articles I had co-written about their aggrieved client.

The client in question was a ‘lawyer’ who ran a medium-sized law firm elsewhere in London, and Carter-Ruck demanded the Daily Mail print a front page apology, remove all stories concerning him from our website – and of course, pay him an enormous amount of damages.

Presumably the issue of their considerable legal costs would have been for another day.

‘These gravely libellous allegations strike at the heart of our client’s professional and personal integrity,’ they said.

‘Being plastered, in a sensational manner, over the front pages of your newspapers has been and is enormously distressing and embarrassing for our client.

‘After publication of these articles our client has received a number of telephone calls and letters asking him to account for the allegations; some of those enquiring have just presumed the truth of what your papers have published.’

Reading this extract from the Carter-Ruck letter in September 2008, you might conclude their client was a man of impeccable credentials – a man destined to reach the very top of the legal profession.

In truth - although Carter-Ruck won’t have known this at the time - their client was one of the most corrupt people ever to practice as a lawyer in the UK. Or should I say pretend to be a lawyer.

Because the truth about Dr Shahrokh Mireskandari – the Carter-Ruck client exposed as a crook by the Mail five years ago - was that he had faked his legal qualifications, had hidden his criminal convictions from the Law Society and charged his own clients vastly inflated fees.

The man whose reputation Carter-Ruck solicitors Alasdair Pepper and Hanna Basha were instructed to protect was a conman, a liar and a disgrace to the legal profession.

Of course their client will have told them that the allegations were all lies and so on his behalf they insisted: ‘Your articles are full of false and defamatory allegations about our client. All allegations about our client are flatly and categorically denied.’

A libel writ was served on us shortly after the aforementioned letter, presumably in the hope it would intimidate us still further. Thankfully, it didn’t.

At the time my colleague Richard Pendlebury and I exposed Mireskandari, he was advising Britain’s most senior Asian police officer, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, in his race claim against his employers the Metropolitan Police.

Ghaffur’s high-profile legal action was masterminded by Mireskandari’s very close friend, the bent Met commander Ali Dizaei.

I stumbled on the Carter-Ruck letter the other day as I was doing some filing, and I could not help wondering how difficult it would have been to get our series of stories on Mireskandari and Dizaei into the Mail, if the draconian Royal Charter on the press had already been implemented.

Investigative journalists already have to deal with some of the strictest libel laws in the world, not to mention over-the-top privacy rules, in their quest to break stories of public interest.

Corrupt, serial litigants like Mireskandari and Dizaei will be among the main beneficiaries of the Royal Charter should it ever see the light of day.

Just consider what has happened to Mireskandari and Dizaei since our revelations about them in 2008.

In the aftermath of our investigation, Mireskandari was suspended from practising as a solicitor and his firm closed down, Dizaei was suspended over our revelations the pair had had a corrupt relationship (Dizaei denied our story but was later twice jailed for corruption over another matter) and Mr Ghaffur was humiliated into dropping his £1 million plus race discrimination claim against the Met.

Last year Mireskandari was booted out of the legal profession and ordered to pay £1.4 million in costs after a protracted Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing.

He was struck off after it was confirmed he had faked his legal qualifications and hidden his criminal convictions while representing celebrity clients.

The conman – a close friend of senior Labour MP Keith Vaz with whom he once enjoyed a favour for a favour relationship - was found guilty of 104 breaches of the rules governing solicitors conduct.

It ruled that while running his London law firm Dean and Dean, he racked up debts, over-charged clients, conducted improper litigation, failed to keep proper records and used clients’ cash to pay staff salaries.

Several months after the threatening letter to the Mail back in September 2008, Carter-Ruck informed us that it was no longer representing Mireskandari. No explanation was given.

We later learned the firm had launched legal proceedings to recover more than £118,000 in unpaid fees from him.

Would you believe it? Carter-Ruck conned by the conman they held up as a beacon of integrity. If only they had listened to us rather than their client.

According to legal sources, Mr Pepper and Ms Basha, who now works for an aggressive libel firm which represents lying Dizaei, are none too keen to discuss Mireskandari. ‘They get a bit sheepish when the subject is raised,’ said one lawyer.

May be one day Carter-Ruck will apologize to the Mail for all the hours and money we (and ultimately they too) wasted defending his libel action, which was later thrown out at the High Court.

After all, Carter-Ruck’s defence of Mireskandari ‘struck at the heart’ of our professional and personal integrity.

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Post by PeterMac on 28.03.13 16:33

At what point do Carter-Ruck become co-conspirators ?
At what point do their actions become a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice ?
At what point should they make some basic enquiries into the people they represent ?
They represent everything that is disgraceful about the legal profession.
They are part of the reason people hate lawyers.

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Post by sharonl on 28.03.13 16:41

Some excellent points there Petermac

In the recent McCann v Bennett case, Isabel Martorell, Partner at Carter Ruck, was asked whether she was aware of any evidence that backed up her clients' claim that Madeleine had been abducted. She admitted under oath, that she knew of no such evidence and was working purely under instruction.

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Post by PeterMac on 28.03.13 16:53

And that was after having given that as evidence under oath, IIRC !

The piece that amused me in the article was the bit about C-R now having to sue their erstwhile client for the legal fees.
One hopes they ended up seriously out of pocket.

And "acting under superior orders" has not been a valid defence since 1945

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Post by Guest on 28.03.13 18:14

"Befehl ist Befehl"! Sound of clicking heels ...
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Post by BrokenBritain on 28.03.13 18:15

I trust Tugendhat wasn't impressed with the conduct of the C-R lawyers.
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Post by IAmNotMerylStreep on 28.03.13 18:21

@PeterMac wrote:At what point do Carter-Ruck become co-conspirators ?
At what point do their actions become a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice ?
At what point should they make some basic enquiries into the people they represent ?
They represent everything that is disgraceful about the legal profession.
They are part of the reason people hate lawyers.

clapping1
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Post by aiyoyo on 28.03.13 18:39

@PeterMac wrote:And that was after having given that as evidence under oath, IIRC !

The piece that amused me in the article was the bit about C-R now having to sue their erstwhile client for the legal fees.
One hopes they ended up seriously out of pocket.

And "acting under superior orders" has not been a valid defence since 1945

They are not out of pocket because they were not conned out of their money. What they lost is time, with the biggest lost being their reputation.

If they couldn't get their fees from the Mccanns one wonders would they sue the mccanns?
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Post by plebgate on 28.03.13 20:58

No pro bono work for the dastardly solicitor then.

Glad Daily Mail had the guts to stand up to them. I am waiting to see what happens if Mr. A. wins in Portugal. Will the press dare to print if he does win?
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Post by lj on 28.03.13 22:42

Most lawyers / lawfirms love these cases and can do it for free. It is much cheaper than advertising. If they had to pay for the amount of tv /media coverage it would cost them much more. No charity here, pure smart business.

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