Police Scotland has set up a dedicated team to investigate complaints into a failed law firm and is inviting former clients to get in touch if they feel they have been affected.
A campaign group has met with Police Scotland to register their complaint of criminal activity against the now defunct McClure Solicitors, particularly in relation to fraudulent activity linked to so-called “family protection trusts”.
McClure went into administration two years ago and campaigners say up to tens of thousands of people may be unaware they are affected.
Mike Pilbeam of Victims of McClure Solicitors said it is going to cost the clients of McClures millions to resolve the problems.
He added: “What’s more, many of the clients are finding the properties they put into trusts are no longer owned by them and are effectively in the hands of professional trustees who have not met their obligations.
McClure had gone into administration in 2021 – its files were passed to another company called Jones Whyte.
It has said it has sympathy for the clients of the former firm and is committed to engaging with them in a “measured, constructive and sustainable manner.”
But hundreds of people have joined a Facebook group sharing their stories.
Pilbeam added: “We’ve had a meeting with Police Scotland and we’ve registered a complaint of criminal activity on behalf of WW and J McClure Solicitors in respect of all – nearly 100,000 – clients that they had.
“Predominantly, the complaint has been submitted by the Victims of McClure action group.
“The police have accepted the complaint. They have set up a dedicated team to assess the information that we have given to them and they are inviting all clients of McClure that feel they might have been affected by it to contact them.
“The complaint is basically one of fraudulent activity committed over a 20-year period against their clients. There are other associated allegations that have been made and there may well be other situations that come out of the woodwork as more and more clients become aware of what has gone on.
Mr Pilbeam says McClure took on contracts over a 20-year period that were never managed or properly fulfilled.
He added: “It’s not isolated incidents, it’s in respect of virtually every one of the clients that McClure had, and it gets to the point where it has to be determined as being deliberate.
“It’s impacted victims in various ways. A lot of clients of McClure are now getting into their 60s, 70s and 80s and it is affecting them in ways of fear, in fright, some have lost confidence.
“One guy sent me a text a couple of days ago that says for him it is like a cancer, it’s eating away at him, and I would say that all of the people that have been involved are feeling exactly the same.”
Andrew J Robertson, the former managing director of W W & J McClure Limited, said the business was brought down by the coronavirus pandemic having become unsustainable during that period.
He said: “We provided clients with over 20,000 trusts and, like most businesses, occasionally something went wrong. But that happened only occasionally and when it happened, we put it right at our expense and compensated the client if there was any loss.
“Clients should not fear that money has been wasted. The trust was and remains a good service, it had many benefits and the fact that McClure no longer exists does not affect the trust.
“We dispute that clients were misled to pay for a trust. It was our responsibility to advise clients but it was left to them to decide whether or not they wished to have a trust.
“From 2019, each meeting with one of our consultants was recorded with the client’s consent so that management could monitor that no undue pressure was being brought to bear.
“No one is more disappointed that McClure’s became unsustainable due to Covid restrictions than me.”
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