Millions in hidden funds linked to fugitive Bobroff attorneys forfeited to the state

Ronald Bobroff in 2010. (Photo by Gallo Images / Financial Mail / Robert Tshabalala)
Ronald Bobroff in 2010. (Photo by Gallo Images / Financial Mail / Robert Tshabalala)

The National Prosecuting Authority's Asset Forfeiture Unit has obtained an order in the Pretoria High Court forfeiting a cash amount of over R103m, a spokesperson said on Monday. The money is held in two bank accounts in Israel, in the names of father and son attorneys Ronald and Darren Bobroff.

The Bobroffs have filed a notice for leave to appeal against the ruling, according to the NPA. 

The pair left South Africa for Australia after irregularities were uncovered at Ronald Bobroff & Partners, of which both were directors. They were struck from the roll of attorneys amid allegations that they charged a contingency fee of 40% of Road Accident Fund payouts, which was above the 25% cap.

In March 2016, when they fled South Africa, they were facing charges of fraud and theft. In 2018, it was widely reported they were the subject of an Interpol red notice. 

In a statement issued on Monday, the NPA said: "The huge forfeiture order was the result of excellent cooperation between both the South African and Israeli authorities."

The order was granted in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which allows property used to commit a crime to be forfeited to the state.

Multiple fee agreements 

The case relates to multiple fee agreements entered into by the Bobroffs with their clients, the NPA said, with clients signing up to three agreements in some instances. Israeli authorities first froze the money in the bank accounts when they became suspicious about transactions being conducted by the Bobroffs, the NPA said. 

The court found that "in all probability" the money represented the proceeds of crime, namely fraud, theft or money laundering, and that the attorneys laundered funds for their clients into the Israeli accounts, the statement added. 

"The Bobroffs' modus operandi was to convince clients to enter into these agreements. The clients were unaware that these agreements were in actual fact null and void and that they were used as a tool by the Bobroffs to commit alleged fraud, theft and tax evasion," the NPA said. 

The Bobroffs additionally invested a "substantial" amount of RBP's monies in an investment account, but it was not reflected as a trust creditor account in the company's accounting records, the NPA added, creating an "opportunity" for tax evasion and money laundering. 

The money is being kept safe in Israel until the Bobroffs' appeal is finalised, the NPA said. 

Attempts to reach the Bobroffs' local attorney by phone were not immediately successful. Should Fin24 receive a response to written questions, this article will be updated.

The Bobroffs have consistently denied wrongdoing. In 2018, Ronald Bobroff told City Press that they had fled because they feared for their lives. At the time, he said they had been the victims of a "corrupt set-up".

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