The law firm Mishcon de Reya is being sued by a real estate investment company for £ 2.9 million for accepting potentially “contaminated” money from a former client as payment for legal fees.
The lawsuit is linked to a bitter family quarrel which involved property manager Edward Wojakovski and the Tonstate group, which he owned with his former father-in-law.
A group of companies affiliated with the Tonstate Group, which went into liquidation this month, is suing Mishcon over money Wojakovski used to pay legal bills related to the dispute.
The lawsuit alleges that the money was taken from Tonstate and that Mishcon should not have accepted it.
In the details of the claim, which was filed in the Supreme Court this month, the Tonstate companies quote a 2017 WhatsApp message from Mishcon’s executive chairman Kevin Gold to Wojakovski’s ex-wife that allegedly refers to a Singapore bank account from which the law firm received payment.
The funds were “potentially contaminated, but I suspect there is enough to make sure everyone is well made,” Gold allegedly said in the message.
The Tonstate companies accused Mishcon of “making a few late and half-hearted inquiries from their client, but nonetheless continued to receive payment from the Bank of Singapore account without in fact establishing the origin of those funds. set “, according to the claim.
The dispute between Wojakovski and his ex-wife’s family is about funds they claim he took from Tonstate. Supreme Court rulings show that Wojakovski admitted that he withdrew money from the group, but argued it was with the extended family’s agreement. In 2019, he was ordered to repay almost £ 13 million. A freezing order was instituted in 2020 and he was declares bankruptcy.
Wojakovski’s former father-in-law, Arthur Matyas, also acknowledge to take money from the Tonstate companies and agreed to repay the money in 2020.
The claims against Mishcon follow similar allegations that Tonstate made against other firms that represented Wojakovski. Earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Antony Zacaroli reject claims of regulatory failures against law firms Keidan Harrison and Rayden Solicitors.
Strict rules govern the way lawyers handle clients’ money to try to prevent money laundering.
The Tonstate lawsuit is the latest case in which Mishcon has been accused of mishandling funds. In October, the firm was fined £ 25,000 by the lawyer for England and Wales for let soccer agent clients channel commission payments through his client bank account.
Mishcon said in a statement: “We take our regulatory obligations very seriously. There was no transgression on our part. Our full answer will be set out in our defense, which has not yet been submitted. “
Shlomo Rechtschaffen, a lawyer for the Tonstate companies that also represented Matyas, did not respond to a request for comment.
Luke Harrison, a lawyer for Wojakovski, said his client was “seriously concerned about the collateral attack on several of his attorneys by Tonstate”. Harrison noted that Judge Zacaroli called a similar claim against his own firm “remarkably aggressive.”
“While Mr Wojakovski is subject to a freezing order after a ruling, he is concerned that it will be used in a way that prevents him in practice from seeking legal advice for the purpose of burying him in technical breaches of court orders and procedural compliance, ”Harrison said.
“Freezing orders are an important remedy of the English courts, but the ability to obtain confidential legal advice must be maintained if a party to litigation is not deprived of their Article 6 rights at a fair trial.”