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| 2 minutes read

Axiom Ince: our role so far

Immediately after an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that identified a £64m hole in Axiom Ince’s client account, the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team at Devonshires was appointed by the directors of Axiom Ince Limited to take urgent action by freezing the assets of the firm’s global chief executive, Mr Pragnesh Modhwadia.

The Devonshires’ team, led by Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution, Philip Barden, supported by Partner, Jim Varley, took swift action on behalf of the directors to prepare a preservation and freezing injunction, liaise with the SRA and work closely with the directors to understand this fast-moving situation. 

In conjunction with instructed counsel, Simon Passfield of Guildhall Chambers, Devonshires’ application for a preservation and freezing injunction against Mr Modhwadia was successfully granted by Mr Justice Michael Green on 25 August 2023, followed by proceedings being issued on 29 August. 

As a result, Mr Modhwadia was required to provide information about the use of Axiom Ince’s client account funds. Mr Modhwadia admitted that approximately £64m had been taken from Axiom’s client account, in part to buy Ince & Co and Plexus Law, and to buy six properties and renovate a further seven. The claim against him was subsequently amended to include seven other defendants, all companies either owned or controlled by Mr Modhwadia or his brother, Uttam. 

A further hearing in September saw the court extend the preservation and freezing order after a without-notice application. Soon afterwards Axiom Ince announced it was no longer taking new instructions. 

On 3 October, the SRA closed Axiom Ince “to protect the interests of clients and former clients of the firm”. This intervention covered 14 offices across the country including Ince & Co and Plexus Law, which had been bought by Axiom in pre-pack deals for £2.2m and £1.1m respectively. 

Neil Bennett, Alex Cadwallader and Andrew Poxon of Leonard Curtis were appointed administrators of Axiom Ince Limited on 26 October.  

On 14 November, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) arrested seven people and carried out dawn raids across nine sites, as it announced the launch of a criminal investigation into the collapse of Axiom Ince. The SFO puts the losses at £66m. 

Devonshires continues to act for the company in administration, via the administrators, and is instructed in several confidential related matters. In addition to Philip Barden and Jim Varley, the Devonshires team includes Partner Stephen Netherway and Solicitors William Couchman and Grace Williams

Philip Barden says: “As the litigation proceedings in this matter continue to play out, this case serves as a reminder of the need for swift and effective action when suspicions arise concerning client monies and possible wrongdoing.

“The Devonshires’ dedicated and experienced litigation team were able to spring into action very quickly to understand the situation, make the necessary applications and put in place the immediate protections required to preserve its client’s interests in this unprecedented case of alleged dishonesty and misappropriation.  

“Whilst this matter is unlikely to near a conclusion any time soon due to its staggering complexity, and as other matters play out on the periphery, Devonshires’ advice and decisive actions have played a vital role in ensuring there is a case to be heard with a prospect of recovery.” 

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litigation & dispute resolution, news