Bosasa interdict stopped SIU from naming Gavin Watson

The team in charge of the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) probe into Bosasa had their hands tied by litigation brought by the controversial firm, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Monday.

Clint Oellermann, the lead investigator on the team who in 2007 were tasked with scrutinising Bosasa’s contracts with the department of correctional services, told the commission that Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson’s name was not included in the SIU’s report because of an interdict brought by the firm.

The SIU completed its report in 2009. According to Oellerman, a hardcopy of the report was handed to the department of correctional services. The evidence gathered by the SIU was also handed over to the National Prosecuting Authority, he said.

But the report was only acted on in February this year, when a handful of former Bosasa executives and associates — including the firm’s former chief operating officer-turned-whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi — were arrested by the Hawks.

One name absent from the draft charge sheet was Watson’s. During his January testimony before the Zondo commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Agrizzi alleged that Watson was the kingpin of the Bosasa operation — which has been linked to allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering.

Agrizzi reiterated this sentiment during his testimony last week. “I come from a culture where corruption and bribery were the order of the day. Gavin was a godfather who controlled everything,” he said on Friday.

Oellermann told the commission on Monday how the SIU’s investigation was curtailed by Bosasa’s attempt to interdict the probe. According to the SIU’s final report, the unit “gave an undertaking not to interrogate material witnesses pending the finalisation of action proceedings for a final order”.

“The SIU has accordingly not interrogated Bosasa officials, its auditors and other witnesses who could impart material information regarding issues relating to the investigation,” the report reads.

Watson was one of the Bosasa executives the SIU was precluded from interviewing.

Oellermann told the commission the SIU did have hearsay evidence suggesting that Watson was at “the forefront” of the irregularities identified by the unit in relation to the firm’s tenders with the department of correctional services.

He explained that, as a result of the interdict proceedings, the allegations implicating Watson in wrongdoing could not be tested.

Oellermann also told the commission that Watson could not be connected to wrongdoing beyond the hearsay evidence because he never signed documents or wrote emails.

“He tried to keep his nose clean,” Oellermann said of the politically-connected Bosasa chief executive.

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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