Laws hinder the search for missing millions

HIS grandfather built the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but John Gordon Bradfield will probably be remembered less fondly – at least by about 100 of his former clients who were left out of pocket when the solicitor’s practice folded three years ago.

John Bradfield, former Dural Solicitor

The Dural solicitor is believed to have run a Ponzi-style investment scheme, which collapsed in late 2008 owing investors at least $24 million.

Three years on, his trustee in bankruptcy, Ian Struthers, is still trying to piece together the money trail.

But his attempts to find out where the money went hit a stumbling block after a court found that Jean Sayer, the receiver appointed to Mr Bradfield’s legal practice, was prevented by law from revealing information to the trustee.

Earlier this year the Federal Magistrates court ruled Ms Sayer did not have to hand over documents or give evidence in an examination after she argued she was prohibited by the Legal Profession Act from disclosing more than 13 volumes of information.

Mr Struthers had argued co-operation was in the public interest as it would prevent a waste of creditors’ funds. He also argued she had access to documents which were relevant to his task.

The court registrar ruled in Ms Sayer’s favour, finding that the Legal Profession Act prohibited her from disclosing information she had obtained in her capacity as receiver at the scheduled bankruptcy examination.

The registrar said the basis for the ruling was “a possibly technical” one.

It is very unfortunate that in the interest of the creditors and investors the trustee could not have access to material about the business of the bankrupt…” the court said

Investors who gave money to Mr Bradfield before October 2005, may also be entitled to payments from the Law Society’s Fidelity Fund.

In October, Mr Struthers asked the head of the Law Society of NSW, Stuart Westgarth, to review the matter, but his letter also went unanswered.

Mr Westgarth yesterday told the Herald the receiver was independent to the society, but said she was under legal obligations not to disclose the material.

He said the Law Society believed the Bradfield case was ”extremely serious”.

Mr Westgarth said 80 per cent of claims on the fidelity fund had been finalised, but the receiver was waiting further documentation about the remaining claims.

The head of the NSW Police fraud squad, Col Dyson, said a police investigation was continuing. He said police had ”no issues with the cooperation received from the Law Society or any person acting on behalf of the Law Society”.

(Sourced from SMH, Geesche Jacobsen, 22/12/11)

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