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Baxendale-Walker stands for four-year post; £2m fraud hearing due for September
A solicitor charged with a £2m pension fraud is standing for a seat on the Law Society's ruling council. Paul Baxendale-Walker, who was charged last November, is contesting the council seat for Westminster. Baxendale-Walker will face criminal trial in September for a fraud that was allegedly committed in 1994. A specialist tax lawyer, he was indicted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in June last year. The Law Society council elections are taking place at the beginning of next month. The seat Baxendale-Walker is standing for is a four-year position. A Law Society spokesperson said that there is nothing in its bylaws to stop a member who has criminal proceedings against them standing for a seat on its ruling council. Westminster council member Sue Nelson said: "It's a matter for him what he tells his constituents in his election address, provided that he complies with his obligations under our rules. The Solicitors Practice Rules include a general obligation not to bring the profession into disrepute and not to act with a lack of integrity." Also indicted in the fraud case is businessman Bjørn Stiedl. The pair are charged with defrauding a pension fund, the Clarion Group Retirement and Dependants Benefit Scheme, of £2.135m. The charges are against Baxendale-Walker, not the firm that bears his name. Baxendale-Walker is still practising, although - as is standard Law Society practice - he has been forbidden to act as a company director while the proceedings are ongoing. Stiedl is the former head of a company named Crisum Group, which bought a share of Balfron, which in turn owned the Clarion scheme. In May 1994, Crisum instructed Baxendale-Walker, who was then a solicitor at Forsyte Kerman, to advise it on the restructuring of the Clarion scheme. The SFO is charging Baxendale-Walker and Stiedl with transferring the fund to various bodies, none of which were lawful beneficiaries of the pension scheme, including the Baxendale-Walker office account. Forsyte Kerman is not implicated in the SFO indictment. Both Baxendale-Walker and Stiedl deny the charges against them. Baxendale-Walker was unavailable for comment.