Pretoria - Controversial former personal injury lawyers Ronald Bobroff and his son Darren could lose about R100 million in two hidden bank accounts in Israel.
The National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) has asked that the money be forfeited to the state.
In an application before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, the NDPP claims the money is proceeds derived from crime.
The assets - held in a bank account belonging to Darren and another to his father Ronald - have been frozen by the Israeli authorities in terms of anti-money-laundering provisions.
The prosecuting authority argued that the money represented the proceeds of unlawful activities - fraud, theft and offences under the VAT Act.
Two judges, after hearing arguments in 2016, presented by lawyers acting for the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, found that the Bobroffs were not fit and proper to serve the legal profession. They were struck off the roll in December 2016.
In March that year, the father and son lawyers fled to Australia when they got wind of possible criminal charges against them in South Africa regarding the overcharging of clients. The amounts run into many millions.
Ronald, a former president of the Law Society, for decades ran the law firm Ronald Bobroff & Partners in Joburg. He was later joined by his son Darren. They have since been embroiled in a number of legal proceedings, including this latest round with the NDPP.
The pair are fighting the forfeiture, but will have to await their fate as judgment was reserved.
Meanwhile, the NDPP argued that the money sitting in the two bank accounts represents the proceeds of overcharging clients in third-party matters in which the now former controversial law firm represented members of the public in Road Accident Fund (RAF) matters.
The Bobroffs maintained that they mostly charged clients 25% by means of contingency fees, but admitted it was 30% at times (the legal cap).
But the NDPP is of the opinion that the Bobroffs never played open cards with their clients on how much money they took and how much the clients were entitled to. It is further claimed that the money in Israel emanated from illicit trust investment accounts.
According to the NDPP, the Bobroffs are trying to blame their auditor for “bad advice” in this regard, but advocate Etienne Labuschagne SC, acting for the NDPP said especially Ronald, a former longstanding Law Society member, knew exactly how trust investments worked.
The Bobroffs claimed the money in the trust accounts are post-settlement dividends that belong to the partners personally and amounted to about R32million.
It also emerged that the RAF had paid the Bobroffs' practice a total of R969118289 over the years and that the amount now in the Israeli bank accounts total about R99m.
The Bobroffs, however, could not touch this money as the Israeli authorities had frozen the assets because money laundering was suspected.
Darren claimed that part of the funds in his bank account emanate from his Australian bond. But the state said it was clear that he transferred his bond money to a different Israeli bank.
Prosecuting authority special investigators said the origins of the proceeds in the bank accounts derived from fraud and/or theft, money laundering and Income Tax Act breaches