A Cape Town lawyer has been disbarred for pocketing almost R15 million worth of payouts meant for accident victims he was representing.
“For an officer of the court to become embroiled in such a swindle is scandalous,” Judge Patrick Gamble said this week in handing down an order striking Brian Baumann’s name off the roll of attorneys.
“But what aggravates the situation is the fact that the clients were poor people who had suffered injuries – or were
the dependents of injured persons – and desperately needed the money paid out to them to survive,” the judge said.
Baumann was arrested and appeared before the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Bellville last November.
He pleaded guilty to 16 counts of fraud relating to his having settled a total of R24.4 million’s worth of Road Accident Fund claims for various clients but only paying them out a collective R6.6 million and nicking about R14.7 million.
He was sentenced to 12 years behind bars, which he is currently serving at Goodwood Correctional Facility.
Gamble this week found the evidence put up by the Legal Practice Council – which moved for Baumann to be disbarred – reflected both Baumann’s “lies and deceit” as well as “the helplessness experienced by his clients”.
“The individual amounts involved are staggering,” Gamble said, pointing to one example, in which a R2.4 million claim was settled but only R500 000 was paid out to the claimant, with Baumann keeping the remainder.