Disbarred, now prosecute! Court says 'predatory’ Stellenbosch attorney who stole millions from clients must face the music

Published Feb 22, 2024


Western Cape High Court judges have called for the swift prosecution of a disbarred Stellenbosch attorney who was driven by greed and helped himself to over R7 million from unsuspecting clients in a two year period.

The unscrupulous legal practitioner, Stellenbosch and Brackenfell-based conveyancer Hanro Erasmus Steffen, has been struck off the roll of attorneys and barred from practising law.

The order made by the court was scathing on the director of Hanro Steffen Inc, describing him as a predator who feasted indiscriminately on young married couples, retired pensioners and trust funds. His social media profiles were now faceless, but his Linkedin offered insight, showing he had a BCom and LLB degree from Stellenbosch University.

The court delivered the unopposed order after the Legal Practice Council (LPC) brought an application against Steffen, seeking his disbarment. The LPC had first suspended Steffen in March 2022, when it received a complaint he had misappropriated R3.9m from the Fijnbosch Farm Trust Fund.

They later learnt he stole another R3.3m from eight clients between October 2020 and April 2022.

He pleaded guilty and waived his right to a hearing before a disciplinary committee.

The presiding judges, Mark Sher and Judge Patric Gamble, said Steffen stole money that had been paid into his account by clients either as proceeds from property sales, or transactions in which he had been appointed as a conveyancer.

They said he preyed on unsuspecting members of the public and had shown no remorse or contrition for what he has done.

The judges said Steffen offered no explanation for the egregious thefts, which totalled over R7.2m and they said they hoped he would be prosecuted for the criminal offences he has committed.

“He has made no offer to recompense any of his victims. In order to protect the public the respondent must be removed from the roll of legal practitioners.

“His misconduct was not confined to simple acts of opportunistic filching. Where there was an opportunity to exploit a transaction further, he did not hesitate to do so,” the judges said in their judgment.

The judges ordered Steffen’s practice to be placed under curatorship and to deliver his certificate of admission and enrolment to the registrar.

He was also ordered to pay the costs of the application.

“On the papers before us, the inference which one is driven to is that these were predatory acts motivated solely by greed and self-enrichment. Even when he was suspended the respondent was not dissuaded from continuing to fleece those who had entrusted him with their monies,’’ said the judges.

IOL News