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Mr Sheik Muhammad Khalimullah Maudarbocus

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

 

In the matter of

Mr Sheik Muhammad Khalimullah Maudarbocus (078859G)

Held on 3 November 2017

At

ARB

8 Weymouth Street

London

W1W 5BU

———-

Present

Mr Paul Housego (Chair)

Mr David Kann (PCC Architect Member)

Mr Stephen Neale (PCC Lay Member)

Ms Rosemary Rollason (Clerk)

In this case, ARB is represented by Ms Nicola Hill of Kingsley Napley LLP
Mr Maudarbocus has attended this hearing and is legally represented by Mr Sandip Patel QC.

The finding is that Mr Maudarbocus has been convicted of a criminal offence other than an offence which has no material relevance to his fitness to practise as an Architect in that he was convicted on 9 December 2016 of possessing criminal property, contrary to s329(1)(c) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The sanction imposed is erasure from the Register of Architects.

Allegations:

The allegation made against Mr Maudarbocus is that:

1. He has been convicted of a criminal offence other than an offence which has no material relevance to his fitness to practise as an Architect in that he was convicted on 9 December 2016 of possessing criminal property, contrary to s329(1)(c) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Facts

1. On 10 October 2014 Mr Maudarbocus was arrested, with his father, on suspicion of being in possession of the proceeds of crime, or of money laundering. They had with them a holdall containing £213,000 in cash. There was a further £30,000 at the home of the father of Mr Maudarbocus, and in Mr Maudarbocus’ home there were machines for checking for counterfeit notes and for counting banknotes.

2. Mr Maudarbocus was charged, and pleaded not guilty. His father was also charged but pleaded guilty on the third day of trial.

3. His defence was that he was a loyal son to his father and was simply doing his father’s bidding, innocently under declaring cash which was to be carried abroad, and with no suspicion that the money might be associated with criminal activity. He said that he thought the money came from his father’s own business activities. On arrest it was said by Mr Maudarbocus’ father (in his presence) that it was money from an Islamic charity, and Mr Maudarbocus did not offer any other explanation.

4. The jury did not accept the account given by Mr Maudarbocus at his trial, and on 9 December 2016 Mr Maudarbocus was convicted of those offences, and his barrister notified ARB of that conviction promptly.

5. On 13 February 2016 Mr Maudarbocus was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. The judge assessed Mr Maudarbocus as having a similar degree of guilt to that of his father, and said that both took important roles in what was a long term group activity.

ARB case

6. The case put by the ARB is that Mr Maudarbocus has been convicted of an offence (other than one that has no material relevance to his fitness to practise as an architect) as he was found guilty upon indictment of possessing criminal property, contrary to S329(1)(c) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

7. S15(1)(b) of the Architects Act 1997 is the basis for that allegation. This is said to have material relevance to his fitness to practice as an architect. The reasons given are that it reflects badly on his personal integrity, was a serious offence, and brings the profession into disrepute.

8. The sanction to be imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee (“PCC”) is a matter for the PCC, bearing in mind the Indicative Sanctions Guidance. The protection of the reputation of the profession made this a serious matter.

9. There was a release on licence and it would not be right that Mr Maudarbocus practised before his sentence of 2 years imprisonment expired in February 2019.

Mr Maudarbocus’ case

10. Counsel for Mr Maudarbocus put forward a response for Mr Maudarbocus. Mr Maudarbocus accepted the verdict of the jury. He conceded that the conviction is material and required a sanction. He invited careful consideration of the circumstances when arriving at sanction.

11. It was said that Mr Maudarbocus was brought into this criminal activity by his father. This reduced his culpability. His father was the more culpable as his sentence, following a guilty plea on the third day of his trial, was of 2 years and 6 months. This would have been with a discount for a guilty plea. Without such a discount (as he pleaded not guilty) Mr Maudarbocus received a lesser sentence of 2 years.

12. It was said that Mr Maudarbocus accepted the verdict of the jury, did not seek to go behind the verdict of the jury and was remorseful.

13. It was conceded that this called into question the integrity of Mr Maudarbocus though it was not an offence expressly of dishonesty.

14. It was conceded that a sanction was necessary to protect the reputation of the profession, and case law meant that a suspension was inevitable until the ending of the suspended sentence in February 2019.

15. It was pointed out that there was no effect on clients, or the public. The respondent had insight and regret, as was shown by his letter to the sentencing judge before sentence was passed.

16. The time spent in prison was sobering and a time for reflection. Mr Maudarbocus had been a model prisoner, and had contributed positively while serving his sentence.

17. Anything more serious than suspension to the end of his sentence would be punitive.

18. His firm, and the substantial client with whom he worked, still trusted him: he was employed by the same firm, with the same client, on a multi-million pound project, the client having full knowledge of the circumstances. This was relevant to the public perception.

19. This was a first conviction of a young man. He had an impeccable character before the offence. There were no entrenched integrity issues.

20. Mr Maudarbocus had worked extremely hard to qualify, and overcome some medical problems in doing so. It had taken dedication and commitment to do so.

21. The offence was out of character. He had shown sincere contrition and remorse, and now had great insight.

22. His employers spoke well of him, and had re-employed him after he had served his sentence and he was now engaged in work on a £14m project which was testament to their faith in him. They wrote to say that they trusted him completely. Oral evidence had been given convincingly of that trust by a member of the practice for whom he worked.

23. This was a great error of judgment, which had already had severe consequences for him. Anything more severe than the suspension would be disproportionate.

Advice

24. The PCC received advice from its Clerk, which it accepted.

Decision of the PCC

25. In considering the seriousness of the offence of which Mr Maudarbocus was convicted the panel noted that the crime indicated, at the least, a grave lack of integrity.

26. The PCC agrees with the submissions made that this is a criminal conviction relevant to practise and so the PCC then has to consider sanction.

27. The assertion that the respondent has insight and accepts his guilt does not sit easily with his not guilty plea. Self-evidently he did not accept his guilt until after the explanation he had offered was disbelieved by the jury. A letter to a judge sent by him before that judge is to pass sentence may be expected to express remorse. It is said that he now accepts his guilt and is remorseful. For the same reason as applies to the letter to the judge this is to be expected. The sentence was a lenient one, as the sentencing remarks make clear. The judge called it “merciful”.

28. The mitigation offered, that the respondent is a young man, is not persuasive. First he was aged nearly 30 at the time. This is old enough to have a fully developed sense of right and wrong. Secondly, his age does not reduce his culpability for the crime.

29. The offence was not a victimless crime. The money was the proceeds of crime, so that it came from victims. This was a large amount of money. It was one of a series, and so it was a course of conduct in which it is clear that it was accepted that towards £1m was involved, and possibly as much as £4m.

30. The judge’s sentencing remarks contained the following: “[The respondent] was found guilty by the jury after a relatively short period of deliberation and the jury’s verdict in your case demonstrates that they were sure that the cash was the proceeds of earlier criminal conduct or activity, that you knew or suspected that all or part of the cash was the proceeds of such criminal conduct or activity and that your innocent explanation concerning the circumstances in which you dealt with the substantial quantity of cash was false.” and “The immediate explanation for the substantial amount of cash, given at the scene of your arrest by you (the respondent’s father) without demur or challenge by you (Mr Maudarbocus) was that the cash came from an Islamic charity based in Dubai” and “An ultraviolet light money detector and a cash counter were found in the kitchen of your flat nearby”.

31. Some four months later a different account was given: “Your account in interview was… that a business partner of your father’s in Dubai, a man who you only knew by his first name of Farman, of KBM fashion, owed your father money and the seized cash had been sent over from Dubai. Some of it, you thought perhaps more than half of it, was to be given to you for your wedding and to enable you to buy a flat” and “This was not the only occasion on which money had been created by you… You collected very substantial amounts on previous occasions from abroad and from petrol stations in the United Kingdom and passed them on using the same system.”

32. The sentencing remarks state that Mr Maudarbocus said that he was simply doing his father’s bidding as a loyal son innocently under declaring the amounts of cash which he was carrying abroad with no suspicion that this was associated with criminal activity. The judge stated “The jury rejected that defence and in my judgment you would have had to have been naïve in the extreme to be acting as a cash courier handling such large sums of money and transfer, collecting them and transferring them to unknown men in the obviously shady circumstances you described without being suspicious.” The judge noted that the text messages in Mr Madarbocus’ mobile telephone included “I think I need to come work full time with you. I think after we get the mortgage I can work with you full-time. Three trips covers my full yearly salary here at work, you should consider this.” The judge concluded “What is clear is that in October 2014 you are both knowingly involved in the receipt and transmission of a substantial amount of contaminated cash.” It is clear from the sentencing remarks that the total amount of money laundered may have been as much as £4 million, although the sentence related only to the cash with which they were apprehended, £213,000, and the additional money in the flat.

33. This was not a one off and unpremeditated error of judgment done on the spur of the moment, but a considered course of action undertaken for considerable gain. The sentencing judge was entirely clear that this was not an isolated episode. This was a course of conduct.

34. There are some personal matters advanced as to mitigation, but they do not go to the heart of the issue in this case.

35. This is, in the judgment of the PCC behaviour that is fundamentally incompatible with remaining a member of the profession. It was to participate in organised crime in a significant way. The sum of money, in cash, was very large.

36. The PCC erases Mr Maudarbocus from the register. The PCC may specify a period during which Mr Maudarbocus cannot apply for re-registration. This is so serious an offence that the reputation of the profession requires a long period before Mr Maudarbocus can apply to be re-entered in the register.

37. The PCC directs a period of seven years from today must elapse before such an application can be made.

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