Bobroffs abused the system – judges
Publish date: 13 February 2017
Issue Number: 714
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Personal injury lawyers Ronald and Darren Bobroff abused their knowledge of court procedures to effectively prevent the court from examining their misconduct. This is one of the key reasons a full Bench at the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) decided the father and son duo, both directors of Ronald Bobroff and Partners (RBP), should be struck off the roll of attorneys in December last year, according to a report on the Moneyweb site. The reasons for the decision were released last week. The judges were scathing, saying: ‘Endorsing this type of behaviour by officers of the court would bring the legal profession into disrepute.’ The Bobroffs fled South Africa in March last year for Sydney when the Hawks requested that the pair hand themselves over to be arrested and bailed. They face charges of theft, fraud, forgery, kidnapping, money laundering and exchange control contraventions. The National Prosecuting Authority is in the process of preparing an extradition application. The striking off, and last week’s judgment, follow a five-year legal battle by Matthew and Jennifer Graham to bring the Bobroffs to book. Matthew was the victim of a 2006 road accident and his wife Jennifer had retained RBP to handle his claim against the Road Accident Fund. Following their settlement, they sued RBP for overcharging them – a case they won.
Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen wrote the judgment with which Judge Natu Ranchod concurred, notes the Moneyweb report. Their damning finding that the Bobroffs used their knowledge of legal processes to delay the case was highlighted with the duo’s application a day prior to the 6 December hearing where they were struck from the roll. On this day, the Bobroffs launched an application for a postponement, saying – among other things – that they were never formally informed that the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) had applied for their names to be struck from the roll, and that the Deputy Judge President of Pretoria, Aubrey Ledwaba’s enrolment of the matter for hearing, was not ‘competent’. They also applied for a postponement so that RBP’s financial position could be scrutinised by a forensic accountant. The judges conclude their judgment by stating: ‘It is manifestly in the interest of the public to have attorneys, who abuse their position by misappropriating large sums of money due to their clients, struck from the roll of attorneys.’ Lutendo Sigogo, president of the LSNP, welcomed the judgment and said that it was important that the matter had finally been concluded.
There was more bad news for the Bobroffs last week. Five individuals, including award-winning investigative reporter Tony Beamish, are suing the disgraced lawyers for nearly R24m in defamation damages. A report on the Moneyweb site notes the other plaintiffs include Anthony Millar, until recently the president of the Law Society of the Northern Provinces and the lawyer acting for various overcharged Bobroff clients, and his partner Norman Berger. Stephen Bezuidenhout, a former partner of Ronald Bobroff and Partners and Rael Zimerman, of Taitz and Skikne, who acted on behalf of the Bobroffs until 2016, are also parties. The defamation suit follows several rants on social media platforms, especially by Darren Bobroff, which targeted these individuals. The Bobroffs also funded a special website that published allegedly defamatory statements about all five, as well as against Discovery Health. Beamish is one of the key journalists behind the exposure of the Bobroffs illegal dealings. He claims damages of R3.4m, or R100 000 for each of the 34 cases of alleged defamation. The largest claim comes from Millar who claims R11.9m, or R100 000 for each of the 119 alleged defamatory statements made about him.