Bobroffs throw curve ball at SA authorities
Fugitive father and son personal injury lawyers Ronald Bobroff and his son, Darren, have thrown South African prosecution authorities a curve ball.
The notorious pair entered into a quiet settlement with Israeli authorities in February last year, resulting in them dodging criminal prosecution in Israel.
This was unbeknown to South African authorities, who were expecting R95 million to be returned to South Africa by order of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in May last year.
Behind closed doors, the Bobroffs reached a settlement with Israel in February last year to evade criminal prosecution related to suspected tax evasion and money laundering for money stashed in Israeli bank accounts.
As a result, the Israeli government seized about R70 million of the R95 million in turn for dropping criminal charges against the pair. It’s understood that the Bobroffs may have retained several million.
The settlement came to light in South Africa after a replying affidavit was filed by Ronald in the Constitutional Court in June 2021 that disclosed the deal.
However, this is money which the South African asset forfeiture unit had legally laid claim to after it was determined to be the proceeds of crime.
To date, not one cent has been returned to South Africa in spite of the SCA ruling in May last year that the money was the proceeds of crime and must be forfeited to the state.
Now, questions are being raised as to whether this money will ever reach South African shores.
News of the settlement came to light recently after the Constitutional Court released its judgment upholding the earlier SCA ruling.
Local authorities were surprised because Israeli and South African legal authorities collaborated for months in securing a court victory in May last year against the Bobroffs.
In a unanimous ruling by the SCA, about R95 million held by the Bobroffs in Israeli accounts was declared to be the proceeds of theft and money laundering. The SCA ordered the money to be handed over to South African legal authorities.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said at the time the SCA judgment had found, “on a balance of probabilities” both “the allegations of dishonesty, theft, and fraud had been established”, as well as “the funds in the Israeli accounts were the proceeds of the unlawful activities”. It also said “the money had been laundered to disguise its origin and identity prior to deposit”.
The Bobroffs appealed against the forfeiture order granted by the High Court in Pretoria back in August 2019 in relation to their accounts held at the Bank Discounts and the Bank Mizrahi Tefahot in Israel. The court found that the bulk of the money in the Israeli accounts was the proceeds of crime.
The SCA declared that the Bobroffs’ overreaching (in fees charged), coupled with their decision to retain their gains and invest or reinvest same for their own benefit, after 2014, knowing that they were not entitled to the money, constituted theft.
Disgruntled by the SCA judgment, the Bobroffs took it to the Constitutional Court, telling the SA Jewish Report at the time that it was “plainly wrong and there were no irregularities” in terms of their Israeli bank accounts.
In the meantime, allegedly on the quiet, they had long before entered into discussions with Israeli authorities which they reportedly did not disclose to any of the South African authorities. Unbeknown to the NPA, the Bobroffs entered into a settlement agreement with the Israeli authorities in a bid to keep Darren out of jail in Israel for suspected tax evasion and money laundering.
According to Moneyweb, Israeli authorities never notified or consulted with the NPA or the South African Reserve Bank before reaching the settlement. The Bobroffs also allegedly didn’t disclose it to the South African courts, where they were engaged in litigation against the NPA.
It’s clear that the Bobroffs tried to keep the settlement, which an Israeli court sanctioned on 28 February 2021, a secret. They didn’t raise it during arguments in the SCA application, which was heard on 23 February 2021, less than a week before the settlement was approved. Nor did Ronald proactively disclose it in his failed application to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the SCA judgment, which was made a few months later, on 28 June 2021, Moneyweb reported.
The Bobroffs acknowledged the settlement only in court papers submitted to the Constitutional Court.
The details eventually emerged in Ronald Bobroffs’ replying affidavit, in which he included the settlement agreement as well as communication between his legal team and Israeli authorities.
Some insiders speculate that the Bobroffs were hoping this settlement would be enough to put the matter to bed. However the Constitutional Court upheld the decision of the SCA.
The NPA told Moneyweb, “The only proposal the AFU [Asset Forfeiture Unit] received from the Israelis [after the settlement was reached] was to share three million shekels [about R14.5 million] with South Africa as a token of goodwill between the countries, which isn’t acceptable to the AFU.”
In 2016, the Bobroffs were disbarred following the emergence of details of financial irregularities. A warrant was issued for their arrest, but before it could be executed, they fled in haste for Australia. An Interpol Red Notice that allows for the provisional arrest of a person pending extradition or other similar legal actions was issued.
Since then, the Bobroffs have been enjoying their new life in Australia. They have reportedly bought expensive homes in upmarket suburbs in Sydney, and their grandchildren attend private schools.
Among other things, it’s alleged that the Bobroffs stole money due to clients from the Road Accident Fund.
They have vehemently denied this, and continue to profess their innocence, saying they fled the country in fear after receiving threats.
The NPA’s Bulelwa Makeke told the SA Jewish Report this week, “We would all love to see the Bobroffs face justice in South Africa, but so far they have used every trick possible to evade the law.”