Outspoken private practice lawyer Sylvester Ayuba James faces debarment and prosecution for embezzling K11.3 million meant for his client Billy Matitha Gama.
These are recommendations the Malawi Law Society (MLS) has made following a disciplinary hearing it conducted recently.
MLS was probing James following a complaint Gama lodged against the lawyer over an alleged misconduct.
Nthanda Times has seen a letter, which the Society has written to James, stating the charges laid against him.
According to the findings of the probe by MLS, Gama engaged the outspoken legal practitioner to represent him in a civil matter where he was sued by one of his suppliers.
Gama alleged that James advised him to deposit K60 million into your personal account while waiting for reconciliation with the supplier.
“Mr Gama states that while he was waiting for the reconciliation, he withdrew K29 million through you. Mr Gama states that after sometime, he was informed that there ‘vvas a ruling from the court and that he should pay the supplier K46 million. He was further told to write a cheque to Kawelo Lawyers, the supplier’s lawyers. It is at this point that he asked you to deposit the balance to his bank account,” reads the letter in part.
It adds that Gama alleged that James told him that he had made a mistake and deposited Kl1 million to Kawelo Lawyers instead of his account.
“From the above account, it is alleged that you still had K20 million from the K60 million and this was meant for Nail Teck (145,900,000.00), Aluminium Plus (K7, 300, 000.00) and the balance for himself, however, you did not pay them. He further alleges that he engaged you to represent him in court and due to your conduct and failure to carry out instructions, a default judgment was entered against him,” reads the letter.
James was charged with multiple counts, which include failure to open a client account contrary to section 36(1) of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act (LELPA), embezzlement contrary to section 89(2)(m) of the LELPA and failure to provide competent representation to a client contrary to Chapter 2 rule I of the Malawi Law Society Code of Ethics (“Code of Ethics”).
Other charges are: engaging in personal or professional conduct that brings the discredit to the profession contrary to Chapter 3 rule I of the Code of Ethics, engaging in misconduct that brings the profession of the law into disrepute contrary to Sections of the LELPA, and failure to timely respond to the Society’s communication dated 28th November, 2022 that contemplated a reply contrary to Chapter 3 rule 3 of the Code of Ethics.
In its investigations, the Disciplinary Committee found that James deposited client’s money in your personal account and failed to open a client account contrary to section 36(1) of the LELPA, embezzled client’s money contrary to section 89(2)(m) of the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners Act (LELPA) and engaged in personal or professional conduct that brought the discredit to the profession contrary to Chapter 3 rule I of the Code of Ethics.
It also found that the outspoken lawyer engaged in misconduct that brought the profession of the law into disrepute contrary to Sections of the LELPA, and failed to timely respond to the Society’s communication dated 28 th November, 2022 that contemplated a reply contrary to Chapter 3 rule 3 of the Code of Ethics.
MLS therefore resolved that the Chief Justice should strike James off the roll of legal practitioners in accordance with Section 96(l)(a) of LELPA.
It also resolved that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should institute criminal proceedings against James for embezzling client’s money in accordance with section 96(l)(e) of the LELPA.
“The Disciplinary Committee further resolved that you should refund Kl 1,300,000.00 to Mr Gama, pay Two Hundred Forty Thousand Kwacha (K240,000.00) to the Malawi Law Society being costs of the disciplinary proceedings in accordance with Section 96(2)(a) of the LELPA,” concludes the letter.
Ironically, on June 23, 2023, Ayuba James challenged that he would not be found guilty because he was clean.
He wrote on this Facebook account: “Those of you engged in prayers that Ayuba James should be found guilty of embezzlement and be suspended or disbarred, you need to take your prayers to the resting place of the Titanic, apart from fasting continuously without even taking a drop of water. Maybe that, maybe, can move the gods and bring your much-desired contentment, otherwise you are in for a very huge disappointment. I eat what I legitimately work for. Very simple! I am at Area 47 mosque for my routine Friday prayers, and I thought I should say this because, for me, the mosque is the last place I could ever lie from. You may wish to set another trap, not this one. This one will leave a congregation of haters deeply frustrated.”
Lawyer Sylvester Ayuba James was not immediately available to comment on the next course of action he would intend to take.