Andruw Stephens has fled after purportedly misusing R150 million in reserves utilizing his law office’s records. A warrant has now been issued for his capture.
A nationwide manhunt has been launched for Andruw Stephens, a lawyer who allegedly misappropriated more than R150million through the abuse of his law firm’s accounts and his clients’ trust.
The US-born lawyer had been working as financial director of Sandton-based law firm Dadic Attorneys since 2011.
The firm’s website describes him as instrumental in bringing in major clients, including Bidvest Crown National, Dimension Data and Sephaku Cement.
However, as of this week, IRS Forensic Investigations, the Hawks, the Attorneys Fidelity Fund and the Law Society of South Africa are conducting investigations into his sudden disappearance, as well as that of the millions he had allegedly been misusing for dodgy investments.
“A criminal case was registered at a local police station in Joburg and was promptly transferred to the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit of the Hawks,” said IRS chief forensic investigator Chad Thomas.
“Captain Nieuwoudt, who is in charge of the investigation, wasted no time in obtaining an arrest warrant for the suspect, who is now regarded as a fugitive.
“Further to the criminal case under investigation by the Hawks, IRS sent formal correspondence to the Law Society of the Northern Provinces as well as to the Attorneys Fidelity Fund to advise them of the case and the probability that a claim against the fund would be initiated based on the fact that the law firm known as Dadic was allegedly used as a conduit for the suspect to commit the fraud.
“IRS also submitted a report in terms of section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act to the reporting officer at the Hawks head office,” he said.
The director of a multinational logistics company, speaking to The Saturday Star under condition of anonymity, told how he had lost an estimated R60m to Stephens’s scheme.
The director said Stephens had been representing his company for four years, facilitating borrowing and lending contracts to assist the company.
However, he learned last week that Stephens had allegedly been forging his signature to conduct numerous similar deals without his permission and that the money used had vanished from the company’s accounts.
The director said Stephens had numerous outstanding payments expected to be made to his company. In December, Stephens gave the excuse that his trust accounts had been frozen by the law society, but that once that was resolved, he would make the payments.
The excuse remained until last week, when he was meant to meet with the director.
“He was in Joburg last week for the funeral of a friend, but after that, it was impossible to reach him,” the director said.
It was after Stephens vanished that the alleged scheme was uncovered, alongside at least eight other complainants – private individuals and businesses – laying complaints against Stephens. IRS Forensic Investigations is working with several of the complainants.
The former owner of Dadic Attorneys, Davor Dadic, who has since relocated to Australia, said that the moment he heard of the alleged scheme, he had reported Stephens to the law society and was willing to work with the authorities to find him.
“He has abused the trust we placed in him,” said Dadic of the alleged abuse of the company’s trust funds.
Dadic admitted that Stephens was not a member of the South African bar association, meaning he was technically not a registered lawyer in South Africa. However, he declined to comment further on Stephens’s relationship with the company.
Stephens’s fiancée declined to give comment, instead referring queries to her lawyer, Rael Goodkin, who could not be reached by the time of publication.
It’s understood that after his visit to Joburg for the funeral, Stephens was tracked in several areas across the country, in one incident allegedly being released from a psychiatric ward in the Cape.
He is said to hold a Ghanaian passport and also goes by the name Andrew Stephen Rapport.