Suspended Pietermaritzburg attorney Claudia Garella has admitted misappropriating a client’s trust money but says her actions stemmed from a bipolar disorder accompanied by severe depression, cocaine and alcohol abuse. The Witness reports the attorney – who operated Garella Attorneys from July 2010 – was temporarily suspended from practising in March this year. This followed allegations that she stole R750 000 entrusted to her by Guerrino Piovesan, and had falsified bank records. The KZN Law Society is seeking to strike her off the roll of attorneys and the case is set down for hearing in the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) on 20 October. Garella missed the initial deadline to oppose the strike-off application but was subsequently given more time. She said in her opposing affidavit that when the court papers were served on her she was undergoing treatment at a specialist clinic and was unable to think clearly. She has been diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder. Garella admits now that she took Piovesan’s money and did not invest it with Hepburn Incorporated, as he had instructed. Garella says she has closed her practice but is pleading not to be struck off the roll. Instead she wants the court to grant an order interdicting her from practising as an attorney on her own account, giving her leave to work as a professional assistant to attorneys and ordering her to undergo regular prescribed psychotherapy and ‘psychiatric management’.
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