Gavin Watson ‘smuggled’ R500m offshore, but died without a cellphone – reports

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Gavin Watson

A source who spoke anonymously to Times Select reportedly revealed that the tender kingpin had “funnelled” as much as half a billion rand into a Guernsey tax haven offshore, which he was due to be questioned on by the SA Revenue Service (Sars).

Watson may take many of his company’s tax secrets to the grave, however, after the controversial businessman died in a car crash just a day before he was due to give evidence at a Sars inquiry.

Watson was certified dead at the scene of his accident near the OR Tambo International Airport in the early hours of yesterday morning. He was scheduled to appear at the Sars inquiry into his tax compliance today.

It’s understood he was being investigated for tax evasion and money laundering.

The inquiry, led by advocate Piet Marais, would supposedly have heard Watson’s testimony related to the investigation by Sars after he was heavily implicated in the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

It is not clear how his death will affect the inquiry.

News24 has further reported the curious details that Watson apparently didn’t have a cellphone on him when he crashed on his way into the airport, and had just R70 in cash in a wallet that had his ID card and driver’s licence. He also wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, while Afrikaans media have suggested he may have been aiming to hit the pillar.

He had no luggage or passport with him. His family have reportedly asked a private car crash investigator to look into the circumstances of the incident.

Watson was apparently so badly hurt that his body was visually unrecognisable and DNA may have to be relied upon for conclusive proof of identity.

There has been much speculation on whether he crashed into the bridge pillar on purpose to commit suicide, since there were no brake marks on the tarmac, or whether he suffered a heart attack or other medical problem, or even whether he was murdered. The area on the road at which he crashed unfortunately isn’t covered by CCTV footage, which is also unusual given the importance of OR Tambo airport as a national key point.

The wealthy businessperson was reportedly at OR Tambo International Airport at about 5.30am in a Toyota Corolla when he lost control of the vehicle and collided with a highway overpass’ concrete pillar.

Watson had earlier flown to Johannesburg from his home in Port Elizabeth and had spent the weekend in Gauteng.

The vehicle was reportedly not his regular car, which was an upmarket BMW X5. The BMW was apparently sent in for servicing so he used the Toyota Corolla for the weekend.

According to News24, Watson apparently also didn’t know how to drive a car with a manual gearbox – such as the Corolla – as he normally only drove automatics.

Bosasa and Watson family spokesperson Papa Leshabane confirmed that no other vehicle was involved.

Despite Watson having gained several enemies, Leshabane said they were not willing to speculate on the incident being anything other than an accident.

South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesperson Katlego Mogale confirmed in a statement that Watson was “certified dead on the scene by paramedics and a case of culpable homicide has been opened for investigation”.

In addition to this, some family members had already confirmed Watson’s identity at the mortuary in Germiston.

Accident reconstruction expert Konrad Lotter, who did the reconstruction on the infamous Duduzane Zuma accident, said he was unable to comment on the matter, but confirmed that he had been appointed by the Watson family to investigate the accident.

However, he did confirm that he had not yet attended the scene, and hoped to do so by today.

Meanwhile, corruption-accused former COO of Bosasa Angelo Agrizzi has been quoted as saying that it was “very plausible” Watson may have been trying to flee the country at the time of his death.

“I just heard the news now. Shame. It’s tragic, hey,” said Agrizzi in an interview on Power FM.

Asked if he felt that the truth would now never be known about the controversial businessperson and his role in alleged state capture, Agrizzi said Watson had never rebutted the testimony he had given at the state capture inquiry.

“But, yes, it’s very sad that he passed on. I mean, for his family, for his kids, for his grandchildren. My condolences to them.”

Asked about public speculation that Watson was attempting to flee the country and justice, Agrizzi said he had heard there were stories alleging that.

“If you consider the charges that would come against him, I mean, it would be very plausible,” he said. “My heart goes out to the family and that, but what he did was wrong, and he’s probably having to answer for it right now.”

Amidst the conspiracy theories surrounding the timing of his death and other deaths related to the inquiry, the Democratic Alliance took the opportunity to urge SAPS to take the investigation seriously because “even a whiff of foul play is dispelled by a thorough and transparent investigation”.

The party sent out a statement that read: “The police need to probe the circumstances leading up to the fateful accident involving the Bosasa boss, whose company has billions of rands worth of tenders with the government and has channelled millions of rands into the coffers of the ANC in general and specifically the campaign of President Cyril Ramaphosa.”

 jenniffero@citizen.co.za (additional reporting by News24 Wire)