£1m of client money goes missing in stamp duty scam

SEVERAL FIRMS in Ireland have lost about £1m of client money to a major stamp duty counterfeiting scam.

Negotiations are currently under way between the Law Society of Ireland and the 20 affected firms' professional indemnity insurers to decide who should pay the money back to clients.

Two firms were particularly hard hit and it is believed some may not be covered for the full amount lost.

The practices paid the money to a Dublin firm of law agents to cover stamp duty payments on newly purchased property.

But the law agents, since closed by the Garda fraud squad and the Law Society of Ireland, pocketed the stamp duty and either issued counterfeit stamps or did not process the documents.

The law firms involved are liable to repay the lost stamp duty on behalf of their clients.

Law Society director general Ken Murphy said there was “no question of any dishonesty” by solicitors and said he was satisfied no member of the public would lose out.

According to the Garda, fewer than a quarter of the firms have made a formal complaint. It is understood that the firms are reluctant to come forward because of the embarrassing publicity of a court case.