Agrizzi's Bosasa wingman on 'chicken' bribes, destruction of evidence and 'war chests'

2019-01-30 16:25
Late in the afternoon on Tuesday, the commission was introduced to the next witness when Andries van Tonder, the former chief financial officer of Bosasa, was sworn in.

Late in the afternoon on Tuesday, the commission was introduced to the next witness when Andries van Tonder, the former chief financial officer of Bosasa, was sworn in.

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Testimony by the second Bosasa witness, former chief financial officer Andries van Tonder, was a short sprint compared to the marathon evidence by Angelo Agrizzi.

Van Tonder, the man behind the camera that captured images of Bosasa CEO counting R1m in bribe cash, took to the stand late on Tuesday, only to be all but complete by lunch time on Wednesday.

Van Tonder’s evidence was missing the bombshells Agrizzi delivered, but was nonetheless crucial to confirming Agrizzi’s version of events, insofar as the culture of criminality at Bosasa.

READ: Why Agrizzi is spilling the beans now

Tax dodge

Van Tonder, visibly nervous, did however reveal that he was complicit in providing false information to the South African Revenue Service in 2015 when the tax man was investigating a claimed loss of millions on a R9bn prawn farm project named SeaArk Africa Bosasa had operated unsuccessfully.

Other than revealing how Bosasa had dodged the tax man, Van Tonder also gave evidence about his role in the destruction of evidence during a probe by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Van Tonder confirmed Agrizzi’s version over how they had travelled to the offices of Blake's Travel, Bosasa’s go-to travel agent, and removed a host of invoices and documents.

"We took the box of invoices and computers we had collected at Blake’s Travel and took it to a place called Luipaardsvlei, an old mining hostel site just across the road from Bosasa’s head office." Van Tonder said.

"There was a hole dug with a TLB tractor [front end loader]. We threw the documents and computers in the hole, which was then covered up with soil and a concrete block placed over the top.”

Picking up the tab

The invoices and records would show how Bosasa had picked up the tab for travel, accommodation and holidays for prominent government officials.

On another occasion, Van Tonder and Agrizzi were called to the Bosasa office and instructed by Gavin Watson to find any and all documents that could be incriminating, specifically documents relating to the multibillion-rand tenders the company had been awarded.

This was as a result of Watson being tipped off to an SIU raid the following day.

"We removed the documents to a farm in Mooinooi and stored them in a safe in an outside room. Bosasa installed the safe.

"After about two years, myself and Angelo Agrizzi went to collect the documents. We took it to Buffelspoort Dam, where we set it all alight inside a metal drum."

There was one document the pair did not burn, however. A signed agreement between Watson and former prisons boss Linda Mti, wherein it was agreed that Mti would ensure that Bosasa got tenders in exchange for cash payments.

Van Tonder explained that he and Agrizzi took this document to Watson at his home.

"He tore the document up in our presence and flushed it down the toilet," Van Tonder said.

Earlier in the day, Van Tonder told the commission that Watson had controlled Bosasa staff and others who were receiving bribes with general threats that, after they had accepted cash, they were now compromised.

Watson had also told him he was "connected to the Hawks and NPA at the highest levels".

The war chest

The arguably strange relationship between Bosasa and its long-time attorney Brian Biebuyck also again came under scrutiny.

Van Tonder revealed an email from Agrizzi in June 2016, where he asked Biebuyck to transfer R25m out of a trust account back to Bosasa, as it required the cash.

Bosasa would replenish the R25m once it had received payment from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, which according to Agrizzi’s email, owed the company R84m.

Van Tonder said the money was kept in the attorney’s trust account as a kind of "war chest" for Watson, to mitigate the risk of the company’s assets and bank accounts being frozen by the National Prosecuting Authority in the wake of the SIU report being finalised.

This same war chest would later come into play when the Watson family and Agrizzi were locked in negotiations on a R50m, five-year offer to buy Agrizzi’s silence.

"Agrizzi wanted to show that Gavin Watson had this war chest of almost unlimited funds he could use to stop, well, in this case, stop Angelo from speaking," Van Tonder said.

"We wanted to show he had this war chest he could use to bribe, or rather pay, his way out of any situation."

Cash generation

Van Tonder further corroborated evidence by Agrizzi about the purchase of vehicles for former correctional services department chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham and his daughter, and confirmed that Bosasa had built homes for Mti and Gillingham.

ALSO READ: Bosasa: Agrizzi puts Zuma's Dudu front and centre in corruption saga

He was briefly asked to explain the cash generation methods Bosasa used to get money to pay the various bribes. He confirmed evidence by Agrizzi about the people and companies involved in the fraudulent schemes to deliver cash to Bosasa, which paid for non-existent products in exchange for the cash

One such scheme involved the placing of orders for "one ton of chicken", which actually meant R1m.

While Van Tonder’s stint in the hot seat was relatively short, he agreed to assist the commission in its future investigations and would conduct a full assessment of Agrizzi’s evidence for the legal team.

The commission was set to continue after lunch on Wednesday, with testimony from another Bosasa witness.


Read more on:    bosasa  |  angelo agrizzi  |  andries van tonder

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.