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Israel couldn’t link Bobroff’s millions to crime in South Africa

Israeli law enforcement could not link the 95 million rand they froze from the bank accounts of fugitive lawyers Ronald and Darren Bobroff in 2017 to the money the duo stole in South Africa by overcharging road accident victims.

The Israelis were therefore unable to assist the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in recovering the money, but filed civil and criminal charges against Darren Bobroff for money laundering. silver.

Read: “The Bobroffs are broke and unhappy” – Spoor

These proceedings were later terminated after the parties (Israel and Darren Bobroff) settled without proactively informing or consulting the NPA, which saw the State of Israel appropriate approximately R70 million of the funds and allow the Bobroffs to keep the balance of approximately R25 million.

The Israelis’ inability to make a connection is despite the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) ruling in May last year that the money the Israelis froze was the proceeds of crime and should be confiscated from the benefit of the state.

These developments are revealed in a letter the Israelis sent to the South African Department of Justice (DOJ) in April 2021. The letter, signed by a Senior Deputy State Attorney for Israel, Yael Bitton, also notified the DOJ of the settlement agreement.

Lily:
Secret settlement sees the Bobroffs dodge criminal charges
Farewell to Bobroff’s millions

Moneyweb received a copy of the letter from the NPA after requesting it under the Promoting Access to Information Act (Paia). Interestingly, the Department of Justice denied us a similar PAIA request, stating that the record “would reveal information provided in confidence by or on behalf of another state.”

South African authorities have also referred the matter to the DOJ and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) on the instructions of Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.

Background

The case dates back to March 2017, when Israeli authorities seized 103 million rand from the Bobroffs’ bank accounts in that country. The South African Supreme Court of Appeal later ruled that R95 million of this money was the proceeds of crime and should be forfeited to South Africa.

Lily:
Some of Bobroff’s stolen millions will return to South Africa [2019]
The Bobroffs are thieves, says the Court of Cassation [2021]

After the funds were seized, the NPA asked the Israelis to help it return the money to South Africa. The Israelis then asked the NPA to provide evidence that the funds could be linked to the fraud and theft of the Bobroffs in South Africa.

The NPA complied and shared information with Israel and even met with Israeli officials.

However, in the letter to the DOJ, Bitton wrote that Israeli authorities “ultimately determined that this avenue of investigation was not viable, as it was not possible to link said assets to the alleged offenses. committed by Bobroff in South Africa”.

“Due to the impossibility of linking the assets to the South African investigation, the aforementioned seized funds were at risk of immediate release.”

Sars Pivotal Affidavit

Bitton pointed out that the information provided by the NPA, and “in particular the provision of a vital affidavit from a Sars [South African Revenue Service] representative,” helped Israeli mount a national money laundering investigation against Darren Bobroff.

The letter also revealed an offer to share the spoils with South Africa. “In recognition of the significant assistance provided by the South African authorities and law enforcement agencies in the Israeli investigation, the State of Israel offers to share a total of NIS 3 million (R14 million) with the South African government.”

This amount has not yet been paid, although discussions between the South African and Israeli authorities are underway for the full 95 million rand to be returned.

Bobroff’s response

Richard Spoor, the Bobroffs’ lawyer in South Africa, said in response that the Israeli letter confirms what “we have always said”, echoing previous denials of wrongdoing. (Read the full answer here)

Spoor also criticized Israeli conduct and the settlement agreement, which he previously called highly opportunistic.

“The Israelis were rescued by the settlement agreement they reached with (Darren) Bobroff, which, as we have previously indicated, was reached under duress, namely the threat of arrest and extradition of Darren to Israel and seizure of all their property. and property in Australia. The settlement was effectively extorted from them. The letter confirms this. They had no case against Bobroff but were able to extort money from them, abusing state power.

Lily:
Interpol looking for Ronald and Darren Bobroff [2018]
Law Society files damning audit report against Bobroffs [2016]

He said: “The Bobroffs knew that the Israelis had no reason to believe that the money in the Israeli bank accounts was the proceeds of any crime and that the SA request was hogwash. They also knew that the Israelis knew there was no valid legal basis to confiscate the money. That said, the Israeli process is secret and they (the Bobroffs) were not allowed to see the evidence the Israelis relied on.

“They were also threatened with the freezing of their assets and the arrest, detention and deportation of Darren to Israel where he could be held for months. They had no choice but to accept the exorbitant demands of the Israeli ministry.

He added that the “Bobroffs agreed to let the Israeli authorities take their money in exchange for their freedom and the release of a small portion of their assets.” He noted that the Bobroffs had initiated proceedings in Israel to have the agreement reviewed.

Spoor also acknowledged that the money was illegally transferred to Israel. “Certain funds were transferred without the authorization of the SA Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank limits the amount of money South Africans can move abroad. This offshore detention has since been declared and a sanction has been imposed by the tax authorities.

This fine remains unpaid.

Moneyweb sent questions to Bitton, but she did not respond.

The NPA’s response

The NPA seems unfazed by these developments.

NPA communications officer Bulelwa Makeke said in response to questions that Israel’s conclusion that no link could be drawn between funds seized in Israel and alleged transgressions in South Africa has no bearing on the NPA’s criminal investigation and extradition request.

Makeke added that the extradition request is “pending finalization of investigations”.

AFU lawyer Suna de Villiers said the actions of the Israeli authorities do not affect her actions to recover the money. “Our case is not related to the criminal investigation. In our application, we must convince a court that a person received the proceeds of crime and that it is not dependent on a criminal conviction.

“We said the money in Israel was the proceeds of crime, and we will continue to pursue the seizure of the funds.”

De Villiers also said the SA justice minister had phoned him recently and asked for the case to be referred to the DOJ and Dirco. “So the matter is being handled at a very high level.”

Seizure of property and money from Australian bank accounts

An interesting aspect of the settlement agreement was that the Israelis had asked the Australian government to freeze the assets the Bobroffs had in Australia.

The Australians then issued a summons in which they wanted to seize the five properties owned by Bobroff and freeze three bank accounts.

The assignment provides details about the properties. A deed search revealed that the Bobroffs sold two properties in September of last year to a company called CJNSW PTY LTD for $0. The Director and Secretary of CJNSW is Cindi Jaches, Ronald’s daughter.

The family still owns the other three.

Listen to recent interviews by Moneyweb editor Ryk van Niekerk with the Bobroffs’ lawyer, Richard Spoor, and Suna de Villiers of the NPA: