Angelo Agrizzi’s big Bosasa corruption bill: Liquidators seek R91m

  • Liquidators issue claim against former Bosasa boss for R91 million, money he had received since 2009.
  • This includes more than R40 million in "hush money" the late Gavin Watson allegedly paid him to not spill the beans on Bosasa corruption.
  • The move by the liquidators signals the first step in major shift toward recovering millions syphoned from company's coffers after months-long investigations.

Former Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi has been slapped with letter of demand for R91 million by the team of liquidators managing the winding up of the corruption-accused Bosasa group.

In a stunning change of fortune for the self-proclaimed whistleblower, Agrizzi now become the first of the Bosasa dons to face major financial repercussions as a result of nearly two decades of alleged grand corruption perpetrated by the Krugersdorp-based facilities management and security company.

The late Gavin Watson, who died in a mysterious motor vehicle accident in August last year, was alleged to have bribed, or caused bribes to be paid, to dozens of government officials over several years to secure upward of R12 billion in state contracts, the first of which, a lucrative correctional services contract, was awarded in 2004.

On Saturday, Agrizzi, described as Watson's right-hand man, in a response through his attorney, Daniel Witz, said he disputed all the facts relied on by the liquidators - and registered his disappointment and surprise that evidence and findings of the liquidation enquiry - a secret process - had been leaked.

Former chief financial officer Andries van Tonder, who together with Agrizzi turned on Watson and gave evidence before the Zondo commission into state capture last year, has also been hit with a letter of demand for R21 million.

Witz also responded on his behalf.

The pair's testimony focused on the deeds of Watson, and painted him as the kingpin, but glossed over the intricate details of their own financial gain.   

According to the letters of demand seen by News24, both men have 10 days to pay the amounts into a trust account held by MacRobert Attorneys - the law firm used by the liquidators - or face legal action seeking to recoup funds deemed to have been paid to them unlawfully from Bosasa coffers.

"Our clients have given their full co-operation to the [liquidation] enquiry," Witz said.  

"Even prior to the enquiry being conducted our clients had a meeting with the appointed liquidators to tender their co-operation as they have done with all the forums that have asked for their cooperation.

"All of the allegations are in fact disputed. We do not wish to deal with the allegations at this stage as our clients intend to abide and keep to the strict confidentiality of the enquiry."  

He added he had written to the liquidators and their attorneys demanding an investigation be conducted into the leak of the information surrounding the letters of demand.

"Save for disputing the allegations, any further comments will be dealt with in the appropriate forums," Witz said.

The process of recovering funds deemed impeachable is a key function of liquidation proceedings and any funds recouped through processes such as those launched against Agrizzi and Van Tonder are destined to be utilised to pay the Bosasa's groups creditors.

According to court papers filed by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), it was the single largest creditor, having raised initial assessments totalling R849 million.

In the court papers, SARS said further assessments were in the process of being raised. The assessments flowed from a tax enquiry that was chaired by advocate Piet Marais.

Agrizzi and Van Tonder testified before the tax enquiry. The letters of demand, meanwhile, flow from a secret liquidation enquiry chaired by retired judge Meyer Joffe before which both men also appeared.

How the money flowed and flowed to Agrizzi

According to the letters, money started flowing to Agrizzi, and Van Tonder, from Bosasa's coffers in 2009 and continued to flow until 2018.

The funds were paid to Agrizzi over a number of years through a series of front companies that were set up and used as conduits to disguise the fact the payments were actually from Bosasa which was renamed African Global Operations in 2017.

african global operations

Agrizzi led a lavish lifestyle; including owning multiple million-rand Italian sports cars and a luxury Dainfern home.

"It has been clearly established from the evidence tendered at the enquiry, by yourself and on behalf of others, that Mr Watson adopted a particular modus operandi with the view of financially benefiting and diverting Bosasa revenue to certain select individuals," the letter of demand addressed to Agrizzi read.

"This unconscionable abuse manifests itself in the established fact that these legal entities were always intended and consequently used as conduit vehicles through which Mr Watson and others, including yourself, fraudulently syphoned off and unlawfully misappropriated millions of rand of Bosasa revenue," the letter continued.

News24 understands claims against Watson's estate and other members of his family are in the process of being finalised.

Miotto Trading, a Bosasa front company and one of the entities identified by liquidators as a conduit, shot to fame last year when it emerged Watson had made a R500 000 donation to Cyril Ramaphosa's 2017 ANC presidential campaign.

The funds were paid from his personal bank account to Miotto, and then on to a trust account held by Sandton law firm Edelstein, Farber, Grobler which was used by the CR17 campaign to house donations.

The campaign has since placed the R500 000 in a trust account, initially the intention was to return the funds to Watson.

Ramaphosa is still fighting a report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane over the CR17 campaign's finances in court.

News24 also previously uncovered Miotto was used to channel R1.1 million to the lawyer of disgraced SABC CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and R1.3 million to a longtime associate of former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, Israel Thoka.

The other major conduit, Consilium, was used for years to pay select Bosasa directors additional salaries on a monthly basis.

The payments of R16.5 million on 26 August 2016 and R29.6 million on 18 March 2017 were in respect of agreements Agrizzi concluded with Watson, his brother Daniel "Cheeky" Watson and Bosasa.

Agrizzi would be paid the funds in exchange for not carrying out his threat to reveal the extent of the corruption that had allegedly taken place at Bosasa.

"Upon a proper reading and contextualised interpretation of the agreements, they demonstrably have as their manifest purpose the circumvention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act," the letter of demand read.

"The entire basis upon and purpose for which the agreements were concluded was consequently unlawful, the agreements fall to be set aside and you are obliged to reimburse our clients in respect of all monies paid to you by or on behalf of Bosasa in pursuance thereof," the letter concluded.

Additionally, evidence before the liquidation enquiry revealed Agrizzi and Van Tonder had both received eight cash consignments of R1 million each during the course of 2016 - cash that "belonged" to Bosasa, according to the liquidators.

In November last year, Watson's nephew, Jared Watson, laid charges of theft, fraud and money laundering to the tune of R37.5 million against Agrizzi.

"The charges predominantly are for transactions approved by Agrizzi and Van Tonder on behalf of Bosasa to companies owned and operated by them," he told News24 at the time.

Former Bosasa Executives Angelo Agrizi, France Vos
Former Bosasa Executives Angelo Agrizzi, Frans Vorster and Andries van Tonder leaving after their case was postponed at the Pretoria Commercial Crime Court. Photos by Morapedi Mashashe

Jared, who is involved in extensive litigation with the liquidators and who is trying to have them removed, was himself quizzed before the liquidation enquiry over his involvement in Bosasa's affairs. He was appointed as a director of the Bosasa companies under liquidation late last year.

Agrizzi, Van Tonder and other senior Bosasa managers together with former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti and former Department of Correctional Services chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham have also been charged with fraud and corruption

They were charged with several counts of money laundering and violations of the Public Finance Management Act as well as the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

The charges relate to four tenders, worth roughly R2 billion, which the department awarded to Bosasa between May 2004 and December 2005.

"In respect of Bosasa and the various entities, the late Gavin Watson was the only shareholder up and until at least 2016 of Bosasa. He controlled Bosasa and all of its related businesses and entities. He controlled all of its operations as was needed," Witz said on Saturday.

He added Agrizzi had been extremely brave in coming forward as a whistleblower and he had approached various state entities to offer his unconditional assistance prior to appearing before the Zondo commission, liquidation and tax enquiries.

"Despite this, it appears that Mr Agrizzi is one of the only individuals facing criminal charges, various civil claims and other threats against both himself and his family.

"Notwithstanding Mr Agrizzi’s co-operation and assistance, he appears to be on the receiving end of considerable financial and criminal consequences," Witz said.

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