Solicitor faces fraud allegations

FORMER London solicitor Geoffrey Beccle has been arrested in connection with a series of alleged property frauds involving former clients and four leading mortgage lenders and worth at least u1 million.

No charges have been brought but the police and the Solicitors Complaints Bureau (SCB) are investigating his activities, which are also the subject of a separate legal action by Bristol & West building society, one of the lenders.

Bristol & West is trying to recover u502,635 from the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF), plus interest and damages.

Beccle, formerly of two-partner Geoffrey Beccle & Co, is on police bail. The Metropolitan police confirms “there is an investigation into allegations against Geoffrey Beccle of fraud and obtaining money by deception”.

Beccle's arrest follows a trail of complaints to the police and the SCB from the mortgage lenders and solicitors at Reid Minty and Ashley Wilson who now act for his former clients. They allege Beccle tried to defraud them in the sale and purchase of their properties.

Beccle, now in Taunton, says he has retired. His lawyers, fraud specialist Burton Copeland, say he “disputes the police allegations. He denies that he has been guilty of any criminal behaviour.”

Burton Copeland declines to comment on the Bristol & West civil actions.

Beccles' u450,000 former Kensington home is due to be sold this week. The house is at the centre of allegations by Bristol & West of fraudulent remortgaging of the property in 1991, on which Beccle also allegedly acted as solicitor to the lenders.

The SCB received Bristol & West's complaint a year ago and the tribunal is due to report on Beccle this month.

The police were first alerted to Beccle's activities by Reid Minty partner Christopher Stewart-Moore last October when top jockey Richard Quinn came to him alleging Beccle had kept u157,000 equity from Quinn's house sale.

Tony Wilson of Ashley Wilson, acting for the buyer of Beccle's house, says his client's u49,000 deposit, given to Beccle who allegedly claimed to be acting as solicitor on the sale, had “disappeared”. Wilson informed police on 19 January, the day before Beccle's arrest.

Bristol & West says in a writ that it lent u502,635 and Abbey National lent u360,000 to Beccle to remortgage his house. Barclays and NatWest are thought to have jointly lent around u300,000.

Bristol & West's fight for compensation is supported by the High Court in a final judgement for u99,000 for breach of trust and an interim payment order for u400,000 for breach of contract and negligence.

However, Beccle took himself off the solicitor's role in June 1993 and is therefore uninsurable by the SIF.