Cash laundering link to law chief stabbing

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FOUR Scottish solicitors suspected of money laundering are to be interviewed by detectives investigating a frenzied knife attack on a top law official.

Leslie Cumming, who survived 12 stab wounds, is understood to have headed an inquiry into corruption among lawyers which resulted in the four solicitors facing trial.

Police are looking at the theory that Cumming, chief accountant for the Law Society of Scotland, was the victim of a revenge attack ordered by a lawyer whose alleged criminality he had exposed.

Cumming, 62, was attacked last Monday outside his home in the Murrayfield area of Edinburgh by a masked man. He spent three days in hospital.

Cumming, who is viewed as a tough customer by many members of the legal profession he helps regulate, is understood to have spearheaded a recent crackdown on all forms of misconduct relating to finance, including money-laundering.

At present, 16 Scottish solicitors face charges, including four on allegations of money-laundering. A Lothian and Borders Police source said: "We will be questioning people who have been involved in money-laundering because he and his team normally take to investigating them. There are some guys - especially some in criminal practice - who give us a lot of concern because of the people they associate with. And they will know some pretty nasty guys who could carry out an attack for them."

Police will also this week begin sifting through all Law Society files that were being dealt with by Cumming and his team of 12 accountants. They will be looking for anyone who could have a grudge against Cumming, or who might have feared being investigated.

Cumming has given detectives the names of two former solicitors who have been banned from practising at least partially because of his inquiries and could have a grudge against him. One was struck off for professional misconduct and the other for embezzling.

But officers say they will not be restricting their inquiries to these two individuals. Another force insider said: "Because of his position there are any number of people who will have had a grudge against him."

The attacker is described as being in his twenties, stocky and wearing dark clothing. Police will begin putting up posters in the area tomorrow in an effort to get more information from potential witnesses.

Meanwhile, campaigners for greater openness in the legal profession have hit back at suggestions that their organisations and websites could have been linked to the attack.

Senior figures in the Law Society have made it known they feel some of the websites criticising lawyers are tantamount to incitement to violence.

But Peter Cherbi, a long-time critic of the Law Society who runs a weblog "A Diary of Injustice in Scotland", said: "I'm concerned that some people will try and use this to stifle criticism and open debate. I can't imagine anyone connected to the campaigns would be involved in anything like this. Lawyers are supposed to uphold the right to free speech and not be acting against it."

He added: "As for Mr Cumming, I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery from this terrible attack."

At the Cummings' imposing home there was little sign yesterday of the knife attack just a few yards away. The small gated set of stairs leading down to their front door remained unlocked and windows around the house were left ajar.

Shreds of police tape which had been used to cordon off the area earlier in the week remained caught on a bush near the scene. Out on the hedge-lined street there were few passers-by, and residents hurried from their front doors to their cars parked on the road, with a few nervous glances.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said their inquiries were ongoing.