Bosasa was run like a cult — Agrizzi

Angelo Agrizzi’s participation in alleged corruption at Bosasa can be attributed to cult-like behaviour, the former chief operating officer of the private security company told the judicial inquiry into state capture on Wednesday.

During the commission’s first hearing of 2019, Agrizzi revealed that Gavin Watson, the “charismatic” leadership of Bosasa chief executive, led him to believe that his dealings at the company were above board.

He told the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that it took a near death experience — in the form of a coma — for him to decide to come clean about his time at Bosasa.

READ MORE: Former Bosasa COO received death threats in lead-up to state capture testimony

A litany of allegations over corruption involving state departments has plagued Bosasa companies and directors for more than a decade.

Agrizzi recounted morning prayer meetings led by Watson, which he said started to resemble a cult. “I believe, I really do, that it was sincere … but it became kind of a cult .. But quite simply it was a mockery,” he tearfully told the commission. Watson would invite pastors and prophets to attend these meetings, Agrizzi said.

Agrizzi conceded that this was one way Watson maintained influence over his employees, and why he had failed to come forward earlier.

Agrizzi’s own testimony has already implicated him in wrongdoing at Bosasa.

Describing himself as Watson’s former “right-hand man”, Agrizzi detailed the many perks he enjoyed during his tenure at Dyambu Holdings, the company that would later become Bosasa. These benefits included cash payments, company cars and holidays paid for by Watson.

Head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC, pushed Agrizzi to explain an unusual arrangement — reflected in Bosasa’s books — through which his wife was being paid a salary by the company despite never working there.

Agrizzi explained that his salary was split between himself and his wife, who had worked as his personal assistant at the company he had previously worked at. One payment, from 1999, showed that Agrizzi was paid R187 000 by Bosasa, while his wife received R400 000 that month.

The payments to both himself and his wife were represented to Sars and both paid taxes on their respective salaries, Agrizzi said.

He conceded that he was advised by Dr Jugen Smith, Bosasa’s then financial administrator, that his salary would be split to gain tax advantages.

According to an affidavit from the commission’s investigators, Agrizzi’s testimony will implicate about 38 individuals. In the lead-up to his evidence, he allegedly received numerous threats on his life, forcing the commission to keep his testimony under wraps.

Agrizzi has already implicated former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni in his evidence. Myeni allegedly handed Agrizzi and Watson a confidential National Prosecuting Authority file, detailing an investigation into Bosasa, at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria in 2015. The commission’s legal team has already corroborated aspects of this.

The hearing continues.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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