Bosasa’s Agrizzi gave up life of lies, bribes, flashy cars after near-death experience

Head of the corruption accused facilities management company, BOSASA, Angelo Agrizzi speaks at the State Capture Commission in Parktown, 16 January 2019. Photo - Neil McCartney

A guilty conscience is what prompted former Bosasa (now African Global Operations) chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi to spill the beans on what he called “illegal activities” to obtain tenders from government and the private sector.

Among the revelations made by Agrizzi yesterday before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture were that African Global:

  • paid up to R6 million in bribes;
  • used union leaders – among people of influence – to win tenders in government, mining, oil and state-owned companies to obtain multimillion-rand tenders;
  • obtained tenders illegally;
  • paid individuals up to R1 million per month for influencing tenders.

An Italian with an expensive taste for flashy cars and gifts, Agrizzi worked for African Global for 17 years.

He arrived at the inquiry accompanied by heavily armed security guards, and pulled no punches on the workings of the company and its chief executive officer, Gavin Watson.

Proclaiming himself Watson’s right-hand man, he presented an affidavit with a table of figures, setting out his income in salaries, gifts, cash and cars between 1999 and 2017 – easily totaling R50 million over that period.

A combination of a settlement and retention agreement paid to him by the company in 2017, stood at R27.3 million. Asked by evidence leader senior counsel Paul Pretorius why it took him so long to come out, Agrizzi said: “It’s like becoming involved in a cult. You get so convinced what you are doing, is right. I had a near death experience – heart problems – and after that decided I could not continue. I was exposed to many unlawful activities.”

Pretorius asked Agrizzi if he was aware that his testimony also incriminated himself, to which he replied: “I am well aware.” On why he worked for Bosasa, he said: “I am a Christian. One of the reasons I joined Bosasa is because I was told the company was run in a similar manner. There were daily prayer meetings. It turned out to be a mockery – a cult.”

Agrizzi painted a picture of a company that pulled strings to get what it wanted – often changing structure, names of subsidiaries and shareholders. A key man who met influential figures to fix tenders in favour of Bosasa, Agrizzi swam in money.

Asked whether he received any benefits other than a salary, he said: “Yes, cash payments and holidays.” He admitted to not declaring either to Sars. On advice of a Dr Jurgen Smith, he said a portion of his salary was paid to his wife “for a tax advantage”. But he denied misrepresenting his salary to Sars. “My wife paid tax on the portion paid to her, and I on the portion paid to me,” said Agrizzi.

On the company’s strategy to win deals, he related how Dyambu Holdings – a Bosasa subsidiary with links to the ANC Women’s League – won a massive Goldfields catering tender. National Union of Mineworkers leader Jackson Mafika was at a meeting at which Agrizzi was present to influence the tender process by putting pressure on the mining company.

He claimed Watson paid union leaders cash in exchange for support of the tender bid, which was eventually won by Dyambu.

“I was present at meetings where union members were paid cash. “Mafika was gunned down outside his Westonaria home in 2013,” said Agrizzi.

Securing the Goldfields deal, said Agrizzi, was key to securing tenders at two other mines. Having been awarded a lucrative tender from Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) to secure OR Tambo International Airport since 2001, Agrizzi said money was used to influence the deal.

“Grey plastic bags were handed to officials at Acsa… Cash would be packed in those bags. “Watson told me he had contact with several Acsa officials: Jason Tshabalala, Siza Thanda, and Thele Moema, who was head of Acsa risk and later became premier Nomvula Mokonyane’s advisor,” said Agrizzi. The hearings continue today.

Brian Sokutu / The Citizen