SCA orders fugitive attorneys to forfeit millions to the State

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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 NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit has frozen more than R100 million held in Israeli accounts that belong to Ronald and Darren Bobroff.
  • The pair fled the country to Australia in 2016 before they were meant to hand themselves over to the Hawks.
  • The Bobroffs had appealed a forfeiture order handed out in 2019.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has ordered that fugitive attorneys Ronald and Darren Bobroff hand over more than R100 million allegedly stolen from clients who were meant to benefit from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

The father and son duo had appealed a Gauteng High Court order that an amount of R103 million be permanently forfeited to the State. 

In August 2019, the court ordered that the money should be paid into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account belonging to the State in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA). 

The Bobroffs fled the country to Australia in 2016, a few days before they were due to hand themselves over to the Hawks. 

Fin24 reported the pair had specialised in personal injury claims at Ronald Bobroff & Partners (RBP), where they were both directors. 

READ | NPA cracks down on Bobroffs’ millions stashed in Israel

The bulk of their cases were related to vehicle accidents. 

The father and son duo were struck from the roll of attorneys after they allegedly fleeced clients out of hundreds of millions of rand. 

Among the allegations they faced were that they charged contingency fees above the 25% cap specified by the Contingency Fees Act on RAF payouts.

They were also accused of cashing in on claims from the RAF meant to be paid to clients. 

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said the amount was held in two bank accounts in Israel under the pair's names. 

The appeal was based on two issues - whether or not the High Court had jurisdiction to make a forfeiture order for assets outside South Africa, and whether the National Director of Public Prosecutions had established the funds forfeited were proceeds of unlawful activities as defined in the POCA. 

Ngwema said the appeal was dismissed on both counts, but the affected amount was amended. 

"The case relates to multiple fee agreements entered into by the Bobroffs with their clients. In some instances, up to three agreements were signed with each client. 

"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 fraud, theft and tax evasion. 

"In addition, the Bobroffs invested a substantial amount of RBP's monies in an investment account. The account was, however, not reflected as a trust creditor account in RBP's trust accounting records.

The money in the investment account provided the Bobroffs with an opportunity to avoid the taxation of the interest earned on the monies invested as well as with an opportunity to launder funds without being detected.

WATCH: Abuse hurled at attorney as sheriff visits fugitive Bobroff's home

Israeli authorities initially froze the money in the accounts after becoming suspicious about transactions. 

Ngwema said the court also found that, in all probability, the money held in the bank accounts represented the proceeds of unlawful activities. 

It found the activities were, namely, fraud and/or theft and/or money laundering and that the Bobroffs laundered funds belonging to their clients into the accounts in Israel.

The Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions heading the Asset Forfeiture Unit, advocate Ouma Robaji-Rasethaba, welcomed the judgment, saying it gave them a "shot in the arm" to recover stolen money outside the country. 

"We shall embark on mutual legal assistance endeavours to bring back the money. There is no hiding place for the fruits of criminal acts.

"Further, attorneys who defraud the most vulnerable will not get away with it. They must not [think] that they can steal and hide abroad," Rabaji-Rasethaba said.    

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