A full bench of the Pretoria High Court listed a litany of professional misdemeanours as part of their reasons for striking off Ronald and Darren Bobroff from the Roll of Attorneys in December last year.
The judges released the reasons for this decision this week. In this document Natu Ranchod and Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen state “insofar as the Bobroffs are concerned the only appropriate sanction was to strike their names from the Roll of Attorneys”.
The reasons include numerous breaches of the Attorneys Act and a number of criminal offences, including the potential evasion of VAT and income tax. Other specific finds stated that the trust account of Ronald Bobroff and Partners (RBP) “had lost its identity”, stating that the Bobroffs used this account as if it was their own.
The Bobroffs fled South Africa for Sydney, Australia in March last year after being invited by the Hawks to hand themselves over for arrest.
In response to Moneyweb questions, Ronald Bobroff denied the findings and instructed his legal team to proceed with an appeal. He also “strenuously” denied that there was any misappropriation of trust funds and stated that there hasn’t been any claim against the attorney’s fidelity fund in terms of RBP’s trust account.
The judges also found that the Bobroffs had for years used every trick in the book in order to avoid an inspection of their accounting system, files and records by the LSNP.
The Bobroffs failure to comply with the court’s order that they open their books resulted in Pretoria High Court Judge Kenneth Matojane convicting the duo of contempt of court.
Of Ronald Bobroff, the judges noted: “Despite repeated admonitions from several judges he, together with Mr Darren Bobroff, persisted in using every possible avenue to delay, frustrate and avoid facing up to the serious charges of a practice-wide conduct of overreaching clients…
“The Bobroffs also made clients sign several different fee agreements with a view to using the one that was later the most advantageous to the firm, and other unprofessional, dishonourable and even fraudulent conduct.”
Misappropriation of funds
The judges dealt extensively with the matters of individual clients from whom the Bobroffs had stolen large sums of money. One client, a road accident victim, whose trust money had been pillaged by the Bobroffs was Filipe Pombo, who did not receive his full payout. He took RBP to court and the Bobroffs settled his matter hastily. The facts of this case included an event where a RBP cheque made out to “F Pombo” of R133 600 ended up in Darren Bobroff’s personal bank account.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has been preparing extradition papers in order to bring the Bobroffs back to South Africa to face the criminal justice system. The Bobroffs are likely to face further charges as the judges ordered that this week’s judgment be sent to the South African Revenue Services and the National Director of Public Prosecutions “for an investigation into probable contraventions of the Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax and other legislation by the firm and its directors”.
The Bobroffs also stated in its response that they did not receive a fair hearing and that they were not able to submit an independent forensic report to refute other evidence.
The Bobroffs have been provisionally sequestrated by former clients and the matter is back in court late next month when a final order of sequestration will be sought.