Zondo grills Vincent Smith on Agrizzi loan, car benefit that went undeclared to Parliament

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Vincent Smith.
Vincent Smith.
Jaco Marais
  • Former chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services got a grilling from the Commission of Inquiry Into Allegations of State Capture on Friday.
  • Ex-MP Vincent Smith was asked about benefits in the form of a loan from Bosasa CFO Angelo Agrizzi and a rental car for his daughter from the late CFO Gavin Watson. 
  • Smith said that it "could have been incorrect" or because of "ignorance" that he did not declare these benefits to Parliament. 

Former chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on correctional services, Vincent Smith, seemingly did not think he was obliged to declare a "loan" or car benefit given to him by Angelo Agrizzi and Gavin Watson during his time as an MP.

Testifying at the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture on Friday, Smith said this may have been because of "ignorance" or that he "could have been incorrect".

READ | Loan agreement was with Angelo Agrizzi, not Bosasa, Vincent Smith testifies

Smith's testimony linked back to a 2015 loan agreement between himself and former Bosasa CFO, Angelo Agrizzi, in which Agrizzi loaned Smith over R600 000 for his daughter's tuition fees.

The commission's chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked Smith whether he thought about how exactly he would declare this loan because the loan was processed through a company called Euro Blitz - of which Smith is a sole director - and not in his personal capacity.

"When you had to make the disclosure in 2016, I suspect you would have remembered that there was a loan that you had from Mr Agrizzi in regard to 2015... and you would have wanted to disclose that," Zondo said.

Smith, however, said this was not the case.

Position

"That was not my position at the time, maybe purely from an ignorance point of view that it was in the company and the company reflected the transactions - it was not uppermost in mind," Smith replied.

Zondo emphasised that he struggled to understand this, saying the loan was a personal one for a personal obligation despite being repaid through the company.

Smith said that while it was no justification, the transaction took place after he left his position as chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services.

He agreed with Zondo that he should have declared the transaction.

"Of course, somebody listening to your evidence, and having listened to Mr Agrizzi's version about this payment, might say the reason why you didn't disclose it is because it was not a legitimate loan - there was no loan. If it was a loan you regarded as legit you would have easily disclosed it," Zondo said.

Smith replied that he "could have been incorrect" but the transaction reflected as a loan within the company.

"From where I am sitting the fact that it was reflected and it is audited, said to me... that this is something that I have to pay back at some point - whether it was Vincent Smith or the company," Smith said.

He added that there was never an intention to hide the loan or take it in return for something else.

'Little run-around'

Another benefit Smith acquired, this time from the company's late CEO, Gavin Watson, was a vehicle hired by Bosasa and lent to Smith's daughter as a rental to use as a "little run-around", according to Smith.

Smith told Zondo that he had approached Watson for a car for his daughter, but did not know it was a car that was hired by Bosasa and not Watson himself.

Smith admitted that he had not disclosed this to Parliament either, despite it being a benefit.

Discussion around Bosasa

Evidence leader Viwe Notshe also put it to Smith that while he was on the portfolio committee, discussions around allegations of corruption regarding Bosasa had taken place, yet Smith did not disclose to the committee that the company was owned by Watson, his "friend".

"I didn't disclose that," Smith responded.

"I'm not justifying it... I did not disclose it because I did not disclose any other friendship. My understanding is that even if he was my friend, with the doctrine of separation of powers, a Member of Parliament is unable to influence the operations of any department."

Notshe asked Smith to clarify this point.

"Are you saying that a Member of Parliament is entitled to sit in a portfolio committee meeting wherein serious issues of corruption are discussed about a company [owned by] one of the [member's] friends. Are you saying that the member is not entitled [or] obliged to disclose that?"

Smith responded that he would have either recused himself or declared his relationship with Watson had he been involved in any decision making, but he did not otherwise see a need.

ALSO READ | Mokonyane 'gifted' R3m Aston Martin on her 50th birthday, state capture inquiry hears

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