The Mercury

State seizes R97m from former lawyers

Bobroffs lose funds held in two Israeli banks


CONTROVERS­IAL former personal injury lawyers Ronald Bobroff and his son Darren, whose names were struck from the roll in December 2016, have lost the proceeds held in two Israeli bank accounts to the State.

It is said that there was about R97 million in two Bank Mizrahi Tefahot accounts.

The National Director of Public Prosecutio­ns (NDPP) successful­ly applied for the money to be forfeited to the State, as the proceeds of crime.

Acting Judge Gcina Malindi granted the order and further ordered that the practice Ronald Bobroff & Partners had to pay half of the legal costs of the applicatio­n. The Bobroffs fled the country in 2016, before they could be arrested on charges of fraud, theft and offences under the VAT Act.

They have already indicated that they will try to appeal the forfeiture order handed down by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

The assets held in the bank accounts belonging to Darren and his father were up to now frozen by the Israeli authoritie­s in terms of antimoney laundering provisions.

Two judges, after hearing arguments in 2016 presented by lawyers acting for the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, found that the Bobroffs were not fit and proper to serve the legal profession and removed their names from the roll.

The father and son in March that year fled to Australia when they got wind of possible criminal charges against them in South Africa regarding the overchargi­ng of clients. The amounts involved ran into millions.

Ronald, a former president of the law society for decades, ran the law firm Ronald Bobroff & Partners in Joburg, together with his son.

They fought the forfeiture order on numerous grounds, including that the bank balances located in a foreign country fell outside the jurisdicti­on of a South African court. The State argued that the two accounts represente­d the proceeds of unlawful activities consisting of fraud, theft and offences under the VAT and Income Tax Act.

The court did find that the framework of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act gave the courts jurisdicti­on over property situated in a foreign country if the money constitute­d the proceeds of unlawful activities.

It was found that the money in the two bank accounts represente­d the proceeds of overchargi­ng clients in third party matters in which the now former controvers­ial law firm represente­d members of the public in Road Accident Fund matters.

The money in Israel also emanated from illicit trust investment accounts.

The Bobroffs tried to blame their auditor for giving them “bad advice” in this regard, but the NDPP said especially Ronald, as former long-standing member of the law society, knew exactly how trust investment­s worked.

Darren also deposited into his personal bank account cheques that were meant for clients. This was also blamed on their bookkeeper­s. Darren also claimed that part of the funds in his bank account emanated from his Australian bond, but this was rejected.

The Bobroffs, via an affidavit, denied that they had transferre­d the nearly R97m out of the country and said it was R35m over 30 years, and that all this was done lawfully.

“In this case I have found that the credit balances in the Israeli accounts were proceeds of unlawful activities, in respect of the capital amounts earned in South Africa and the interest earned in the Israeli bank accounts,” Judge Malindi said.

He added that he was satisfied that the schematic way in which the clients of the Bobroffs were overcharge­d and the manner of concealing the origins of the funds “reveal their intention”.

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