A Shrewsbury solicitor who ?closed his eyes to the obvious? was sentenced to 15 months? imprisonment last month for failing to disclose to the authorities that he knew or suspected that a money laundering offence was taking place.
Philip John Griffith, 45, said he had not realised that a conveyancing transaction involved the proceeds of crime because he had relied on an explanation given by an estate agent whom he trusted.
The solicitor acted on the sale of a house worth ?150,000 for a third of its value. The property was being sold by drug traffickers Donna and Peter Davis from Yardley in Birmingham to Shrewsbury-based estate agent Leslie John Pattison for just ?43,000 ? the amount of the outstanding mortgage ? in an attempt to prevent it being considered as an asset in a proceeds of crime hearing.
Griffith said he had trusted Pattison for years and believed his claim that he was purchasing the property to help out friends who were having trouble paying their mortgage.
Pattison and Donna and Peter Davis were all convicted of money laundering at Warwick Crown Court. Griffith was cleared of being concerned in the actual arrangement, but convicted of failing to disclose a suspicious transaction. Judge Marten Coates said he had ?clearly closed his eyes to the obvious.?
Frank Maher, partner at Legal Risk in Liverpool, said the conviction should serve as a ?stark reminder? to solicitors. He said: ?In my experience, many solicitors took steps to comply with legislation two years ago when it was introduced but have done nothing since then to update them. There have been dozens of changes in this area of law and new untrained staff have joined firms.?