Judge rules assets must remain frozen for St Albans’ “Football Lawyer” Blavo

John Blavo

John Blavo - Credit: Archant

One of the country’s top judges has continued an asset freezing order against a St Albans solicitor who blogged about Luis Suarez and other Premier League stars as ‘The Football Lawyer’.

John Blavo, 54, of Cunningham Hill Road, is at the centre of claims by the Lord Chancellor that his firm received over £22 million in payments to which it was not entitled from the Legal Aid Authority (LAA).

An asset freezing order was made by the High Court last November against Mr Blavo who had been managing director of the firm, Blavo & Co Solicitors, which had a branch in St Albans and was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in October last year. It was continued after another hearing in November and twice more in December.

Now, in a judgement in London by Mr Justice Garnham, who was responsible for the two December orders, the asset freezing order has been continued again.

In his latest judgement at the end of last month, which ran to over 5,500 words, the judge said the critical issue in the case was whether the Lord Chancellor had shown there was a real risk that Mr Blavo would dissipate his assets unless restrained from doing so. Mr Blavo has disputed his liability as far as the claim is concerned.

Describing the claim against the solicitor, the judge said he had signed a deeds of guarantee and indemnity but that the Lord Chancellor claimed that in breach of those, he had failed to pay the £22,731,521. The money is said to represent Legal Aid payments made to the firm to which it was not entitled.

The judge applied a “three stage test” to decide whether to continue the freezing order.

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These included whether the applicant had a good arguable case and if it would it be just and convenient to grant the freezing order.

He said Mr Blavo had conceded there was a good arguable case against him.

The judge said he had heard nothing which might enable him to conclude there had been dishonesty on the part of the firm, but not on the part of Mr Blavo himself.

He added that the Lord Chancellor had shown there were “real grounds for suspecting dishonesty on the part of the respondent (Blavo).

The judge continued: “Fraud is not pleaded by the Lord Chancellor.”

During the hearing he had been referred to what was described as Mr Blavo’s “extravagant lifestyle as another argument supporting the risk of dissipation of assets”. This lifestyle included his “purchase of expensive properties, motor cars and watches”.

In ruling that there was a strong argument for continuing the freezing order, he said: “There is in my judgement a strongly arguable case that the respondent was party to an arrangement whereby false claims were submitted to the LAA in many thousands of cases.

“There is, furthermore, evidence of a less than scrupulous approach by the respondent to his duty of disclosure to the court in response to this claim for injunctive relief and some evidence of a recent attempt improperly to put property beyond the reach of the applicant.

“Taking these matters together there seems to me to be a real risk that any judgement would go unsatisfied because of the disposal by the respondent of his assets unless he is restrained from disposing of them.

“Given the sums of money involved and the admitted financial difficulties the respondent has experienced it is, in my judgement, just and convenient in all the circumstances to continue the freezing order.”