Advocate accused of 'milking' RAF suspended
Pretoria - A Pretoria advocate who allegedly "milked" the Road Accident Fund (RAF) for up to R237 400 for just one day's work was suspended on Friday, pending the outcome of an application to strike him off the roll.
Retired High Court Judges Kees van Dijkhorst, William de Villiers and Piet Combrinck suspended advocate French Bezuidenhout with effect from 16:00next Friday.
They reserved judgment in an application by the Pretoria Society of Advocates (PSA) to strike Bezuidenhout's name off the roll of advocates.
The judges also reserved judgment in an application by the General Council of the Bar (GCB) to strike off 12 other prominent advocates, including two senior advocates.
The PSA fined and suspended the 12 for between four and six months after they admitted guilt on a range of charges relating to accepting more than one case for the same court date (double-briefing) and charging the RAF full trial fees for each of them (overreaching).
Bezuidenhout denied any wrongdoing, claiming he was acting in the public interest, and refused to open his books to the Society, prompting the application to have him struck off.
The PSA asked the court to confirm the sanctions imposed on the other advocates, but the GCB maintained that their actions amounted to dishonesty and that they had disgraced the profession.
This week, the PSA asked the court to refer Bezuidenhout and the attorneys who enabled him to take on up to 20 cases in one day to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Law Society for investigation.
Counsel for the PSA Quintus Pelser argued earlier this week that Bezuidenhout's VAT invoices for 2009 reflected that he had appeared in 803 trials involving the RAF over a period of 152 court days and on average charged R60 000 a day for his services.
Pelser said it appeared that the attorneys had "merrily" worked along to tap the RAF - to such an extent that one of the senior advocates involved described it as "raining porridge".
The advocates maintained that they had rendered a valuable service to the public and the court in circumstances where the court roll was severely congested with RAF cases, and that no one had been prejudiced through their actions.
The advocates involved are Don Williams SC, Brenton Geach SC, Thilay Pillay, Colin van Onselen, Stef Guldenpfennig (of the High Court Chambers), Theunis Botha, Cassie Jordaan, Ephraim Seema, Mark Upton, Daniel Mogagabe, Percy Leopeng and Toy de Klerk.