Rudy Noel Frugtniet – Would-be lawyer carries ‘bag of dishonest conduct’
The Age newspaper – article by Selma Milovanovic;
This article appears to provide background on the Rudyt Noel Frugtneit, the subject of other cases reported other Tax Technical articles, including:
- Proceedings to terminate Frugtniet’s registration as a tax agent; and
- A High Court decision about the basis on which Frugtneit was the subject on banning order against the appellant under s 80 of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth)
BY THE time Rudy Noel Frugtniet applied to become a lawyer for the first time in 2001, he was already a convicted forger and thief.
But when making his bid for admission to the legal profession, he did not mention his two-year jail stint in Britain in the late 1970s for welfare fraud and other offences.
His memory loss about the time spent behind bars – and later brushes with the law on several dishonesty offences – would continue to feature at applications in years to come to become a solicitor, a travel agent and a migration agent.
Frugtniet, 56, whom a Supreme Court judge once described as a person who ”carries with him a massive bag of dishonest conduct”, apparently forgot he was not a lawyer when he appeared for a man in court last year.
The Master of Laws, whom the Supreme Court twice refused to admit as a solicitor, has this month been barred from the law for three years by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The Legal Services Board is also considering prosecuting him.
Frugtniet – who claimed he had not impersonated a lawyer and was only a friend’s spokesman – says the ruling will damage his practice as a conveyancer. He is also a migration and tax agent. He has applied to the Court of Appeal to stay the tribunal’s orders.
Frugtniet’s latest mishap happened at Werribee Magistrates Court last May. A barrister acting in a civil case asked the opposing lawyer to spell his name.
”F-r-u-g-t-n-i-e-t,” came the answer. But Frugtniet would not say whether he was a barrister or a solicitor and later confirmed to magistrate Peter Mellas that he was a ”sole practitioner”.
The barrister would recall feeling slightly embarrassed when his instructing solicitor, whom he later phoned, laughed and told him to Google Frugtniet’s name to find out who he really was.
For a decade, judges have been telling Frugtniet they did not believe he had changed his ways. The Sri Lanka-born man had served two years in a jail in Yorkshire in the late 1970s. He was single and had got the dole by lying that his wife and children were living with him. His excuse was that he ”was naive, totally lost” and manipulated by the ”wrong crowd”.
But as retired Supreme Court judge Bill Gillard remarked in 2005, ”his resolve was put to one side”.
In 1989, he was accused of double-charging clients’ credit cards while working as a travel agent, but never went to trial. Three years later, when his former wife was fighting at a tribunal to keep her travel agent’s licence, Frugtniet labelled talk of his UK convictions ”outrageous”. He was tried for perjury but acquitted on a technicality a decade later.
A year before his trial, he was fined without conviction for selling invalid airline tickets. Charges he was cleared of in later years included theft allegations and welfare fraud.
When Frugtniet first tried to become a lawyer, he disclosed only the airline tickets case. At his second attempt in 2005, Justice Gillard said it would take ”many years of blameless conduct before one could have any confidence that [he] has … turned over a new leaf”.
This month, VCAT vice-president Judge Pamela Jenkins agreed. Frugtniet had ”denied any transgressions whatsoever”, she said. ”The manner in which [he] has chosen to defend himself … raises very serious questions as to his willingness and capacity to be an honest and reliable witness.”
FJM 16.5.19 [Reproduced without further comment or imputation]