Prominent law firms ‘war’ rages on

A senior at Collins Newman and Company Parks Tafa
A senior at Collins Newman and Company Parks Tafa

Minchin & Kelly Botswana has confirmed that they will be taking legal action against Collins Newman & Company following allegations of fraud.

Head of litigations department at the firm, John Griffiths yesterday told Mmegi that the company has taken the decision to report the matter to the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) following a High Court ruling on Wednesday.

Griffiths said as legal practitioners they were obligated to report or take action against Collins Newman & Company as a way of upholding the principles of the legal system.

“I can confirm that we are going to take the matter to the LSB, we are just waiting for the written judgement from court which has given us the green light,” he said.

The two prominent law firms have been squaring in court lately over the BoB and EBC Guernsey legal battle. EBC Guernsey represented by Minchin & Kelly had demanded a P27 million payment from the bank after the collapse of Kingdom Bank, which was regulated by BoB who were represented by Collins Newman.  Allegations of fraud levelled against BoB and its attorneys Collins Newman surfaced after the default judgement was granted to EBC following BoB’s failure to file on time, appearance to defend documents. EBC had accused BoB of failing to file the documents for appearance to defend and when they realised that the company was to be granted default judgement, the bank forged the documents.

Following Collins Newman’s decision to drop contesting the allegations of fraud when the case came before court this week, Justice Zein Kebonang said the firm was automatically admitting to a criminal act.

Kebonang said even though the allegations have not been proven in court as no evidence was led, he has however taken the issue seriously because the firm had failed to contest the allegations.

“Court has no facts about the allegations of fraud and I have no reason to accept them. However the fact that the allegations were not contested raises a concern, seeing that these are allegations of a criminal act in our justice system,” he said.

He also pointed out that the matter be dealt with accordingly as it affected the core of the legal system and that Collins Newman should not only put the blame on one person as she was acting on authority from the firm. However the partners at Collins Newman have since maintained that their client, BoB was not liable to any artifice.

In a statement released yesterday Collins Newman said their client has not been accused of any fraudulent act in the documents before court. The statement also indicated that any unlawful conduct, which occurred in relation to the filing of the notice of appearance in the matter, was entirely under the direction of Bokani Machinya, an Associate with the firm.

Statement reads, “She was responsible for the conduct of the matter at the relevant time.

Accordingly in our view no blame or responsibility for any such conduct should fall upon our client, BoB. Internal investigations in relation to the conduct of Ms Machinya are ongoing and the necessary disciplinary action against her will follow in due course.”

Meanwhile, LSB chairperson, Lawrence Lecha told Mmegi that as the regulator of law firms they would take action to investigate the matter once it has been reported to them.

He said as of now there are just allegations that have not been taken before them, therefore they could not do anything or take action against any law firm.

“We will have a way forward once the matter or the complaint has been brought before us, and once we have substantive evidence, that is when we can say appropriate action will be taken.  As of now it is just allegations and we have not received any formal report,” he said.

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