Judges order swindling lawyer, Brian Baumann, to be struck off the roll
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Cape Town - The Legal Practice Council (LPC) has won its Western Cape High Court bid to get the name of a Cape Town personal injury lawyer Brian Baumann struck off the list of attorneys.
Last November Baumann was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment by the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Bellville on 16 counts of fraud worth over R24 million.
That court found him guilty of submitting various claims on behalf of victims against the Road Accident Fund (RAF) and helping himself to the payouts.
Baumann, from Bellville specialised in RAF claims and admitted in court that he used the R14.8 million he defrauded his clients of to feed his gambling addiction.
During the trial at the commercial crimes court, prosecutor Siphokazi Makanda said: “Baumann confessed that after electronic transfers were made by RAF into his practice’s trust account, he totally failed to pay monies that were due to his clients or paid them less amounts than what was due to them.”
In the High Court, the LPC’s application was on the basis that Baumann is “no longer a fit and proper person to practice”.
The two judge bench made up of Judge Patrick Gamble and Acting Judge Nolundi Nyati granted the LPC’s unopposed application and condemned Baumann’s actions as scandalous.
They found that through his conduct, Baumann had brought the legal profession, in which they said honesty and integrity were the bedrock, into disrepute.
In their ruling the judges said: “For an officer of the court to become embroiled in such a swindle is scandalous, to say the least.
“But what aggravates the situation is the fact that the clients were poor people who had personally suffered injuries, or were the dependants of injured persons, and desperately needed the money paid out to them by the RAF to survive.
The individual amounts involved are staggering. For example, the claim of one of the complainants to the LPC, was settled in the amount of R2.4 million, but only R500 000 was paid out by Baumann, who pocketed R1.9 million.
The judges pointed out that there were seven instances where the amount Baumann retained exceeded R1 million and five instances where the amount retained exceeded R500 000.
The judges ordered Baumann to surrender and deliver his certificate of enrolment as an attorney to the court registrar within a month’s time.
If he fails to deliver the certificate, the court has given the Sheriff for whichever district the certificate may be, to take possession of it and deliver it to the court registrar.