Personal injury law firm Ronald Bobroff & Partners (RBP) was placed under curatorship on Thursday following an urgent application brought by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP). Johan van Staden ,the LSNP’s Head of Member Affairs, was appointed as curator bonis to RBP.
This follows the apparent fleeing of Ronald and Darren Bobroff, two directors of RBP, as well as Darren’s wife Liza, to Australia ahead of an arranged surrender to the Hawks last week. They would have been arrested and then applied for bail in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
The third RBP director, Stephen Bezuidenhout, was arrested on Wednesday morning by the Hawks, and appeared in court. He was granted R20 000 bail, subject to strict reporting conditions. He may not go near any departure points.
The Hawks also took the precaution earlier this week of arresting Ronald’s wife, Elaine. She was granted bail of R150 000 and her bail conditions include that she has to wear an electronic monitoring device.
Ronald, Elaine and Darren Bobroff face a number of charges relating to fraud and money laundering as does Darren’s wife Liza and Stephen Bezuidenhout.
The LSNP Vice President, Sandile Beauchamp, told Judge Peter Mabuse in the Pretoria High Court that a forensic investigation into the affairs of RBP has revealed gross financial irregularities. The findings included theft, fraud and tax evasion and the overcharging of many accident victims on whose behalf RBP instituted claims at the Road Accident Fund.
According to Beauchamp, the LSNP was notified earlier this week that the Bobroffs have both fled South Africa and are currently in Australia.
He also told the court that the business of RBP (including its client files) was recently sold to law firm Taitz & Skikne and that the LSNP was not notified of this transaction as required by law.
The LSNP has also applied, on the basis of the findings of the forensic report, to strike the Bobroffs and Bezuidenhout from the Roll of Attorneys.
Beauchamp also said there is currently in excess of R29.6 million in RBP’s various trust banking accounts and the Road Accident Fund was due to pay R45 million to the firm in the course of next week. Ronald Bobroff is the sole signatory of this trust account whilst Darren Bobroff and Bezuidenhout were required to sign jointly.
He also said that a number of RBP clients had notified the LSNP that Taitz & Skikne had approached RBP clients telling them that it had bought the business of RBP.
Says Beauchamp: “Any inclusion of client files and/or mandates to the firm, as a term of the agreement of sale, is void. The property rights in respect of client files vests with the clients and do not form part of the assets of RBP.”
He told the court that clients of RBP were not afforded the right to exercise a choice as to the appointment of alternative attorneys.
The court papers reveal that Bezuidenhout had not been told of the Bobroffs’ intention to leave for Australia and that he was unable to operate the firm’s bank accounts.
The result of the curatorship order is that the Bobroffs cannot touch the money in RBP’s accounts as the court has effectively frozen them, to allow Van Staden time to take control of the practice.
LSNP President Anthony Millar told Moneyweb: “The LSNP is committed to protecting the public and has taken this extraordinary step to ensure that this is done.”
Moneyweb has emailed questions to Ronald and Darren Bobroff, but hasn’t received a response.