Bosasa’s controversial chief executive Gavin Watson paid the company’s co-founder to leave the country in an effort to conceal his involvement in alleged corruption, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Wednesday.
During his testimony before the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder detailed Danny Mansell’s 2013 emigration to the United States.
Mansell co-founded Bosasa with Watson but after a falling out between the two, Mansell sold his shares to his colleague. Mansell later became a consultant for Bosasa and was intimately involved in the firm’s scheme to secure lucrative tenders from the department of correctional services.
According to Van Tonder, Mansell was paid $7 000 a month by Bosasa after moving to the US. These payments were allegedly reflected in Bosasa’s books as consulting fees, but Mansell did not actually do any work for the firm after his emigration.
Van Tonder told the commission that he was instructed by Watson to accompany Mansell to the US in January 2013.
Watson allegedly tasked Van Tonder with ensuring that Mansell would not turn back. “The purpose was to make sure … he would go to America and stay there,” Van Tonder said.
Van Tonder recounted Mansell’s tearful departure at OR Tambo International Airport.
“I don’t know if he was unhappy or not. But for a person to be tearful, he must have been unhappy,” he told the commission.
“I actually felt sorry for Mr Mansell because of the state he was in,” he added.
At the time of Mansell’s departure, Bosasa was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) into the alleged unlawful awarding of department of correctional services tenders to the firm. Van Tonder said they were concerned Mansell would not be allowed to leave the country because of this.
Van Tonder alleged that Bosasa director Papa Leshabane arranged to have a friend at the department of home affairs expedite Mansell’s departure, though he cannot confirm whether or not this actually happened.
Head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC, referred to a document purportedly drawn up by Watson which vouched for Mansell’s reasons for being in the US. The document alleged that Mansell would still be working for Bosasa and was purportedly used to aid Mansell’s efforts to secure citizenship.
During his earlier testimony, former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi told the commission that Mansell had become very nervous in the wake of the NPA’s investigation.
According to Agrizzi, Mansell was “uncontrollable” and felt that Watson had arranged for all the blame to fall on him.
Agrizzi’s testimony detailed how Mansell had a key role in co-ordinating the alleged capture of the department of correctional services. Agrizzi alleged that Mansell designed the bid specifications for certain lucrative department tenders, ensuring Bosasa’s monopoly over these contracts.