A SOLICITOR lied to another lawyer when he helped organise an astonishing £2.5 million 'cashback' scheme, a tribunal heard on Thursday.

Richard Caplan, 51, claimed he had checked that the offer was backed by insurers when it wasn't. It was a blunder that would haunt the respected Harrow lawyer for more than three years, the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard.

Caplan acted for a company called Eurofinance who were promoting a scheme promising shoppers they would be refunded all the cash they spent on goods like hi-fis and washing machines in five years time. It worked because only a tiny fraction of customers at stores like Comet would actually claim the money back, the hearing was told.

More than £2.5 million of sales was recorded when Caplan helped organise the scheme in 1999. But just £69,000 had been set aside by the solicitor to pay them off, the tribunal heard.

Caplan used his good name and reputation to promote cashback compromising his independence as a solicitor, it was claimed. Mr David Barton, for the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors, said Caplan had been a lawyer since 1977 and ran his own firm in Beesborough Road, Harrow.

Eurofinance boasted of its connection with Caplan in his brochures for the scheme and promised the account in which he held the money was fully insured, the hearing was told.

One solicitor, Lucas and Willis, had doubts and wrote to Caplan asking him to confirm he had checked with his insurers that any claims arising from the scheme would be met by them. Caplan assured Lucas and Willis and wrote in a letter: "Naturally I made inquiries."

The lawyer admitted to the hearing he had not made any inquiries and now bitterly regrets writing those four words.

Mr Barton said: "Being blunt, it is a lie." Caplan admitted he had not told the truth but denied being deliberately dishonest.

"Unfortunately I did not give the last sentence in the letter the care and attention it clearly warranted," he said.

Repeatedly asked by Mr Barton whether what he had stated was true, Caplan said: "That's right that's what I stated earlier."

Asked why he had made a statement he knew to be untrue Caplan said: "I'm not proud of the answer I gave. I'm not proud of the sentence. It was always my clear understanding that my activities were covered by my insurers."

He added: "I apologise. This has haunted my life for three years and 11 months."

He said the scheme worked because only 'a tiny fraction' of those promised the refund applied for it. "People forget," he explained.

The hearing was told the 'cashback schemes' no longer operate because of the bad publicity.

Caplan admitted the facts of the case but denied he had compromised his integrity or permitted a misleading public statement to be made about his practice. He admitted he had given inaccurate information to a solicitor acting on behalf of client.

Lawyer Richard Caplan was fined £10,000 after the panel found the charges against him proved but ruled he had not acted dishonestly. In addition to the fine Caplan was ordered to pay costs of £12,500.