Monday 29 March 2010

‘Tesco law’ open to abuse by gangsters

The Herald reports that plans to allow Scottish law firms to use outside investors would increase the risk of money-laundering and allow drug barons to expand their empires, according to one of the country’s most senior lawyers.

Frank Maguire, senior partner at Thompsons Solicitors, one of the Glasgow’s largest firms, fears the so-called “Tesco law” will undermine his profession’s integrity and independence by allowing firms to be able to raise capital from outside investors, while banks and supermarkets could offer a full range of legal services.

The proposed changes, contained in a Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament, have divided Scotland’s 10,500 solicitors, and the arguments are becoming increasingly heated. Mr Maguire believes that by allowing non-lawyers to open legal services will be a blessing only for organised crime as it would be impossible to monitor whether those running the new firms had criminal records.

Mr Maguire told The Herald: "If you had a legal firm, or someone wanted to set up a legal services-provider, that could in future be done by a drug baron who could use it as a legitimate front to launder money. If we opened up legal services then sophisticated organised criminal networks would be able to run them or put their own people in place".

"The financial memorandum says there is £1,300 to monitor whether those opening new firms have criminal records. Even £100,000 would not cover it. It means putting in jeopardy the independence and integrity of the legal profession. Those working in such businesses would not even have to be lawyers under the Bill. They could be legal service-providers with just one lawyer".

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