Four advocates struck off the roll after “mounting the steed of greed” in the double briefing and overreaching scandal which rocked the Gauteng legal fraternity over a decade ago have been given a second chance to resume their careers.
A full Bench of the High Court in Pretoria this week readmitted Thillay Pillay, Marthinus de Klerk, Percy Leopeng and Daniel Mogagabe as advocates, saying they were sincerely remorseful, permanently reformed and had proved themselves worthy of a second chance.
The four and two others were struck off as advocates and seven of their colleagues were temporarily suspended in 2011 for taking on too many Road Accident Fund (RAF) cases per day and charging full fees for each.
Mogagabe and Leopeng were also charging for work in excess of 24 hours per day. In what the court described as the longest day in Mogagabe’s life, he allegedly worked for a total of 49 hours.
Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba said although all four initially responded with indignation that their conduct could have been questioned at all, they have now, six years later, successfully demonstrated that they have identified their character defects.
They have also seen the wrongfulness of their misconduct, were genuinely remorseful and have been completely and permanently reformed.
All of them admitted to being motivated by arrogance and greed, with De Klerk likening himself to a “pig gorging itself on whatever was available”.
They expressed regret and apologised for their dishonesty, which had caused them to be cast out of the profession, but vowed never to repeat their mistakes and offered to pay back their ill-gotten gains.
Judge Ledwaba said it would not be competent in law to order the four to repay the RAF. But it remained open to them to voluntarily make whatever repayment they wished to a suitable beneficiary.
All of them had battled to find employment after being struck off the roll of advocates.
Mogagabe, who overcame extreme odds to complete his legal studies to the level of advocate, was unemployed for nearly six years.
Pillay, who admitted to lying to a judge about his double briefing, had a thriving practice that was ruined by his conduct. He and Leopeng have since become involved in various community upliftment and outreach programmes.
Mogagabe – who said every living moment had been filled with remorse and regret and that, at times, he had felt death would be better – became actively involved in church activities and in rehabilitating drug addicts.