A palatial home in St Ives, in Sydney’s north, three family companies and two apartments in Vaucluse, in Sydney’s east, are just some of the Australian assets belonging to disgraced former lawyers Ronald and Darren Bobroff.
The Sun-Herald revealed last week the South Africans living in St Ives are the subject of an Interpol Red Notice following their flight from their homeland amid allegations the father and son had overcharged, and stolen from, their clients.
Ronald and Darren Bobroff at Ronald’s home in St Ives, Sydney. An Interpol Red Notice has been issued for their arrest after they fled South Africa, accused of fraud.
A spokeswoman for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority said during the week that the investigation into their alleged misconduct continued, and they had not been charged with any criminal offences.
A Red Notice is not an arrest warrant, but a means of communicating information between international police forces.
The Bobroffs, who owned the legal firm Ronald Bobroff & Partners in Rosebank, Johannesburg, insist they are victims of a wide-ranging conspiracy at the hands of one of the country’s largest insurers and have done nothing wrong.
Two apartments in the east
According to title deeds obtained by The Sun-Herald, Darren Bobroff owns two apartments in upmarket Vaucluse. In January 2002, he bought an apartment in Diamond Bay Road for $650,000.
A fortnight later, he bought an apartment in a complex in Isabel Avenue – a four-minute walk away – for $6000 from an undisclosed seller.
A $2.53 million house in Shannon Street, St Ives, where Ronald and his wife Elaine live, is owned by an incorporated entity called REB Properties – of which both Ronald and Darren were previously directors and in which Darren retains shares.
Linked to another St Ives address is another corporate entity, REB Investments, of which Ronald and his wife Elaine are both directors and shareholders.
Elaine is the previous director of the mysteriously named A.C.N. 614 403 593 Pty Ltd, in which she holds an eye-watering 27 million shares.
The Bobroffs’ assets also extend to the Middle East. In February last year, authorities in Tel Aviv froze Darren’s Israeli bank account when he tried to transfer nearly $US7 million to his father’s Australian account.
The transaction aroused the teller’s suspicion, and was reported and prohibited because of the "reasonable likelihood" that the funds that the Bobroffs were trying to send to Sydney were the proceeds of crime.
"Israel Police is conducting an investigation of suspected crimes of money laundering in Israel … by Ronald and Darren Bobroff," reads Israel’s Request of Assistance in a Legal Matter, sent to South African authorities and seen by The Sun-Herald.
"Darren Bobroff requested to withdraw the entirety of the funds in his account – approximately 25 million [Israeli new shekel]."
Two weeks later, his father tried to withdraw $US830,000 from his account with a different Israeli bank. He was also stopped.
At various times, Ronald, Elaine, Darren and his wife Lisa have held eight different bank accounts in Israel. Six have been closed, while the two containing a total of $US7.83 million have been frozen since last year.
There is no suggestion Elaine and Lisa Bobroff had any involvement in the alleged wrongdoing.
While both father and son have been struck off from South Africa’s roll of solicitors in relation to their alleged overcharging of clients, Ronald now appears to be making moves to become admitted as a lawyer in NSW.
Ronald requested and received a reference from prominent Sydney barrister Peter Cashman on June 2 this year, based on his interactions with Dr Cashman in the early 2000s.
"Ronald spent many hours with me, sharing the incredible circumstances in which he, his son and partner and their practice … has been destroyed by what he considers to be a vendetta against them by a multi-billion dollar South African public health insurer," Dr Cashman wrote in a letter titled "Testimonial".
The Bobroffs’ alleged victims have a different perspective.
"The Bobroffs won a four million rand [$390,000] settlement for me," one alleged victim said. "I received no more than 1.9 million rand after all their fictitious fees and cost were tallied up."
Last week, a Sydneysider whose brother was represented by the Bobroffs called for them to return to their homeland.
"The Australian government should send father and son back to South Africa. They have used misappropriated funds to live the high life in Sydney," she claimed.
While the Bobroffs say they live in Sydney in "reduced circumstances" and "on the smell of an oily rag", they are related by marriage to one of South Africa’s richest men. Investec founder Larry Nestadt is married to Elaine’s sister, although it is understood that the families are estranged due to a falling out about money.
Mr Nestadt refused to comment when contacted last week.
As well as for the two ex-lawyers, Interpol has also issued a Red Notice for Darren’s wife Lisa.
"It is alleged that the suspect committed fraud in that cheques were made out to clients of the firm Ronald Bobroff and Partners Inc as if they were the beneficiaries of said cheques, when said cheques were in actual fact paid to their own or other family members’ bank accounts," the notice reads.
Through a lawyer, the Bobroffs refused to comment last week.