A Cork solicitor has been accused of lying and ‘wrongly, wrongly and willfully claiming to have witnessed the signature of a person who was not there’.
During a disciplinary court, it emerged that the lawyer had legally seen a woman sign 18 company documents on separate occasions, despite only ever meeting her once.
The woman claimed that the attorney or others in her practice facilitated the forgery of her signature 22 times over 14 years. She had been a minority shareholder and director of a real estate company run by her husband and was unaware that her signature was on documents relating to bank loans and the buying and selling of property.
The lawyer acknowledges that his signature was forged, but asserts that he was unaware of it. Neither he nor the complainant can be named at this stage.
On Tuesday, the attorney said the woman’s husband would bring documents into his office to have them signed and that there was no requirement under the settlement, he said, for the two to sign simultaneously in his presence.
“They resided together in the same house and I assumed he communicated with her about what he was doing as a normal husband and wife would,” he told the court.
“He [the husband] would bring me documents signed by him and his wife and I had no reason to know that she was not signing them.
The couple have since divorced, the court heard.
In cross-examination, Maura McNally SC for the woman, asked him if he knew what the word “witness” meant.
“You’re a lawyer, you sign a piece of paper that says ‘witness.’ It means that I am there, I am present, I have seen it, I can get up and swear that I have seen it. And you can’t do that for just one of those documents that are forged,” Ms McNally said.
The lawyer said that with respect to the transfer of ownership documents, he did not believe he had to be present and with respect to the bank documents, he believed that the signature was genuine.
“You wrongly, wrongly and deliberately claimed to have witnessed the signature of someone who was not there,” Ms McNally said.
The lawyer replied that he had no reason to believe that the signature was not genuine. The witness was further told that one of the documents with the false signature involved providing a personal guarantee of €130,000 for a bank loan. The lawyer repeated that he had no reason to doubt that the signature was genuine.
The hearing will resume on April 6.