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The Law Society of Zimbabwe has barred 40 law firms — about one-seventh of the national total — from practising this year until they renewed their licenses or revamped, government media said on Monday. The law society office said that the 40 were out of an estimated 270 law firms in the country.

The state-owned Herald paper quoted the president of the umbrella body, Joseph James, as saying: “The said firms and or individuals are therefore not licensed to practise in 2004 and must close their firms immediately until they regularise their position to the satisfaction of the council.”

All lawyers or law firms in private practice must be registered. The annual registration normally involves submission of an audit certificate on funds held in trust for clients.

Some of the applications were rejected because the applications were irregular and did not meet the stipulated requirements, the Herald said.

Among the banned firms is Artherstone and Cook, which recently represented journalists from the Zimbabwe Independent weekly facing defamation charges.

The journalists were arrested early last month for alleging that President Robert Mugabe had commandeered an aircraft from national carrier Air Zimbabwe for a holiday in Asia.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.

One of the authors claiming Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code copied his ideas has admitted he exaggerated his case in an interview with a journalist.